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It's time to regionalise Scottish rugby

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John Beattie | 09:38 UK time, Monday, 17 January 2011

When I was a kid first playing rugby, the petrol was cheap, the roads were clear, and women were quite happy if their men-folk said: "By the way, the game this Saturday is in Elgin, see you on Sunday!"

But even back then it was the local derbies that got the heart pumping, stopped you sleeping at night, and produced the biggest crowds as fans didn't have to make the same idiotic trips the players were forced to travel.

However, I do admit, an overnight boat to Shetland formed my view on life: my view on life is never drink whisky on an overnight boat to Shetland caught in storms.

Lasswade and Greenock met in the Scottish Hydro Shield last April - two teams going well in the leagues below Premier level. Photo: SNS

Lasswade and Greenock met in the Scottish Hydro Shield last April - two teams going well in the leagues below Premier level. Photo: SNS

Nowadays diesel is £7 a gallon, roads are car parks pitted with potholes, and women leave men who threaten to spend all weekend enjoying their sport - and frankly it's hardly surprising.

(Usually for a golfer, who is only away all day Sunday.)

On top of that a long bus trip can cost a rugby club £1,000, and in an era when it's hard enough to get players to cough up their subscriptions that's a lot of money to find.

Six long away trips and some serious fundraising is needed. In a recession?

There is an SRU working party looking at the set-up of Scottish rugby and it has a difficult task keeping everyone happy.

You know that, fundamentally, I think rugby should be played in two chunks in the year with winter and summer breaks and I hope they have that within their remit as it is entirely possible to play rugby on a Friday night and keep the private school former pupil clubs happy as they need bits of grass for cricket on Saturdays.

But regionalisation is probably target number one. Our Premiership here in Scotland needs and wants competition taking place across the country. It's the level of the game where future talent is spotted.

Three leagues of 12 teams.

But there's a level of rugby where players haven't signed up to spending a whole day on a bus for their game.

The argument is where you draw the line. Should you have just one Premiership of 12 teams? Or should there be a three-league Premiership and you ask 36 teams to travel across the country?

Underneath them it's National 1. National 1 is the strangest league as it's the "League of Little Movement" as some sides go up through it, others come down through it, but most of those sides in it seem to sit there.

There's Langholm in the south, Greenock and Lasswade are rampaging through it but would have done if they had arrived via play-offs and regional leagues, Irvine in the west, RHC in the east and Ellon in the north.

I think we have to bite the bullet in Scotland and save teams a fortune in costs and time.

The Premiership should take place all over the country if that's what the teams in it want, and there should be play-offs to get into it.

But beneath that, for goodness' sake, the leagues should set up the kind of local derbies most of us actually want.

Regionalise rugby in Scotland beneath the Premiership, please.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    if the leagues are to regionalised then the cup competition for the lower leagues needs to be natinalised to provide a bit of a change. no-one wants to play the same team 3 times a year

  • Comment number 2.

    John if you recall regionalisation was looked at a few years ago under the a previous SRU regime. One of the main issues was where do yo draw the lines to get a fair standard of competition across the board. If you stick witht the current districts then a regionalised Caledonia would stretch from Dunfermline to Shetland and across to Stornoway. The previous review and proposals did looka t redefining the boundaries but still ended up bascally only moving the line North to the Tay. Then other issue is having a reasonable size competative league - again North of the Forth with only one national Premier division you would be left with Aberdee Grammar, Morgan Academy FP, Perthshire, Kirkcaldy, Howe of Fife, Dunfermline and possibly Ellon to form any kind of competative league, 7 teams is not enough. If you look at making it an "East" divison to bring in Edinburgh teams you still end up with teams making a three hour plus trip to get to Aberdeen and Ellon - something both Grammar and Ellon would confirm has proved difficult to get teams to do in the past. There isn't an easy answer to this one - perhaps the existing three premier division should remain national and eveything below should be regional with Caledonia being sub-divided below its first divison in North (East / West / Highland) adn Midlands as curently happens.

  • Comment number 3.

    John I agree with you and post one and two. But I would also add that Scotland needs two more pro teams.... With the two teams filled with experienced and youth players and as soon as a player get capped moves to one of the main pro teams. The Highlands/North of Perth is the main stumbling block, but oldandcrippled had a good suggestion sub-divide the North into three divisions (west/east/highlands) or even four!!!

  • Comment number 4.

    I have to say I did love a good coach trip and found the return journey certainly such a laugh. Yes local games are, from a competitive point of view, great but you wouldn't want them all the time. It was great team bonding when you had to go further afield (as long as you were given permission by the good lady!).

  • Comment number 5.

    At last your blog addresses an important issue with Scottish club rugby. The debate has been going on now for more than 18 months. The SRU AGM in 2010 voted on a proposal put forward by the Forum of Scottish Rugby Supporters. It was defeated, overwhelmingly, on the say so of the SRU. The result is the Season Structure Working Party proposal that has now been watered down so much that the end proposal is unworkable.

    For those that don't know, Scotland has 6 (yes, six) national rugby union leagues. This is completely daft when most, if not all, major rugby nations have, at most, 2 national leagues. Scotland has fewer clubs and far fewer players than the major rugby nations so why do we have 4 more national leagues? It makes no sense.

    One issue is the current crop of Premier 3 clubs who are against the proposal to regionalise below Premier 2. They have the support of National 1 who don't appear to want to be regionalised either. That means that the proposal is to regionalise below National 1. This does not work - for a more detailed explanation visit www.fosrs.org.uk and the thread "Reorganisation and the impact on P3" - you will need to register first.

    The sensible solution, and the one put forward to the clubs last year by Forum of Scottish Rugby Supporters, is to have one Premier league (as the name suggests) (current Premier 1) and one National Championship (current Premier 2) and National 2(East) & National 2(West) (current Premier 3/National 1) and the leagues below to be fully regionalised.

  • Comment number 6.

    It will still be expensive for Caledonian teams, as Aberdeen, Orkney or Perth teams will still need to travel long distances, but regionalisation in the lower leagues makes good sense.

    Good article BTW.

  • Comment number 7.

    John is quite right, our league system is years out of date. Everyone else has changed to one or two national-level leagues, we till have SIX, which means nearly half the playing clubs criss-crossing the country every Saturday. The issue is not only travel cost, a major factor though that is. The long away trips put many players off, they can't give it the time, which, coupled with weather and call-offs, leads to poor club player retention in Scotland.

    The question is, where do you regionalise? If you do so below Premier 2, it all works out neatly, with 24 clubs playing nationally and 24 semi-nationally in East and West leagues, with everyone else regionalised. Regionalising below Premier 3 doesn't actually work so well. The leagues are too extended to be competitive. 8 teams need to be relegated from National 3. That ricochets down the regional leagues and disrupts them too. The only reason this option has been put forward is that Premier 3, still living in the 90s, thinks its status and importance would be undermined if it had to play in East and West leagues v National 1 teams. But really, what status and importance attaches to team numbers 25-36 anyway?

    If the SRU gives in to them, which it of course promptly did, the next best option is regionalising below National Div 1. That works out fine, except that we are left with 4 national-level leagues, which is far too many. The worst option in terms of competitive leagues is regionalising below Premier 3, it just doesn't work for reasons of club distribution. As so often in Scottish rugby, we seem destined to have to learn the hard way.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hi all - Interesting that National 1 teams don't want to be regionalised, but I can't see why. The logic, as you say, is to do it below Premier 2, but Premier 3 clubs think of themselves as "premiership" too. Let me go away and think.....

  • Comment number 9.

    Amongst the arguments put forward by Premier 3 clubs is that the "Premier" tag allows them to attract better sponsorship. IMHV, I think that this is a red herring simply because local businesses want to advertise locally. If, as a business owner your target market is within 50 miles of your base what is the point fo advertising on a shirt that is seen 100 miles away or more. Better that your name is seen in as many towns and villages around your base as possible. The bigger sponsors are not interested in anything below Premier 1/2 in any event.

    Another argument put forward by Premier 3 clubs is that the travel issue does not affect them. The "I'm all right Jack" approach. That could all change when Highland, Caithness and Orkney get promoted to Premier 3. C'mon the north! Premier 3 aim to prevent change because the status quo suits them - bit selfish in my view.

    In the debate at www.fosrs.co.uk I have yet to see an argument from any Premier 3 club that holds any merit beyond "I'm Premiership and I want to remain Premiership". I really feel that the biggest fear for Premier 3 clubs is fear itself.

    The SRU want to see change go through because it will mean that travel subsidies will be reduced. I suspect that the SRU will reduce travel subsidies anyway and so force regionalisation on the lower Premier and National leagues.

    When it comes to the crunch on this debate, the SRU must take the lead and drive change. At the moment they are bending to every whim and have the breaking strain of a kit-kat when they are put under the slightest pressure.

  • Comment number 10.

    • As part of a club whose 1st XV achieved promotion 2 years running (Caledonia 1- to national 3 to national 2) I think any move towards regionalisation is a death knell to rugby in the north. It seems funny that while teams from the north will send teams south to fulfill fixtures (with a full squad or otherwise) teams from the south, and that can be as close as perthshire, seem unwilling or even worse don't care to return the gesture and travel north, 2hrs up the A90 to aberdeen seems too much to them. Regionalisation is just the SRU giving 2 fingers to clubs north of perth, situation normal. Oh sure its great to get some scotland games at pitodrie even better for fans in shetland / orkney/ caithness. but the only real message regionalisation sends out is don't bother having any ambition since every 2-3 years there will be another restructure favouring teams in the south. A fine example of this is caledonia 2 which is split into 2 leagues east and west, 2 leagues of 8 teams!!! Surely something more creative could be concoted , ok 16 teams might be a bit much but how about 1 match a piece then a split, rather than a season which (weather permitting) could be finished by mid to end feb!!!!!!!!! Seriously!!!
    • Can’t wait to see the fallout from all this messing about with the leagues,…oh aye, John, you might have done the shetland trip once a season, how about themselves and orkney who do tremendously well to do it once a fortnight!!!! Teams should not bemoan that and rather if timetables and player availability allow, make a trip of it, it’s hardly like the fixtures are announced suddenly the week before.

  • Comment number 11.

    • @ philip, don't forget aberdeenshire, we're in the league with caithness and highland (national 2) with orkney (national 3) hopefully getting alongside ourselves soon enough.

  • Comment number 12.

    Although I sympathise with Teams up north,down here in West Div 3 we have trips to Mid-Argyll,Cowal and Bute and there is always the possibility of Kintyre and Islay coming back into the leagues and we are regional.Mention Bus or Ferry old guys say great a day out,the young ones sorry cant make it.

  • Comment number 13.

    #10 "any move towards regionalisation is a death knell to rugby in the north." How so?

    All the statements made by those opposed to any form of change that I have seen are rarely, if ever, backed up with facts and figures.

    Those that put together the FOSRS proposal last year and who are providing input to the SSWP did a lot of research to ensure that they are able to back up any statement that they make with facts.

    Ref Caledonia 2, are you looking at the daft proposal put forward by Langholm? It is completely unworkable on several counts, not least of which is the proposed Caledonia 2 split. The proposal doesn't even take into account the effect of the Government austerity measures - RAFs Kinloss and Lossie will probably not be there next season.

    #11 If nothing changes in the league structure then I hope to see Highland, Caithness and Orkney in Premier 3 just to see the rest of the Premier 3 clubs wince at the travel involved.

  • Comment number 14.

    I play in National One and would not want to move to a regional league. I enjoy the trips around the country and have nothing but admiration for the teams from the North who travel every fortnight. If clubs from the North are against regionalisation then that's good enough for me. I don't think it was the SRU's nefarious influence that led to the reconstruction proposals being rejected, a (less vocal) majority of clubs were against them.
    Perhaps the SRU should give clubs the option - "We are going to set up 2/3/4 national leagues at the top and regional leagues below - which one would your club like to play in next year?".
    If clubs believe they are losing players because of the distances involved perhaps they should focus more on increasing the enjoyment, and by extension the commitment, of their playing membership. One way of doing so would be by having a winter break and playing longer into the summer, as John states above. Games in freezing, miserable conditions are no fun for players or spectators, and games played in May attract larger crowds and result in better rugby. If extending the rugby season a few weeks affects cricketers/farmers/students then that's unfortunate but manageable. I believe the new players the game would attract would far outnumber the players who would be unavailable for a couple of games. As for 7s, move it to pre-season like in Australia or reduce the number of tournaments - the big picture is more important.

  • Comment number 15.

    John

    I hate to be a pedant but fuel is actually cheaper in real terms now that it was in the 70s and 80s. It just doesn't feel like it! I don't see regionalisation as an answer though. It will tend in the end to create parochialism, duplicated bureaucracy and create (or exacerbate) disparities in playing standards. Travel to away games is a fact of life. It can be a bind but the alternative is to give up playing a social team sport and retreat to World of Warcraft in the bedroom! That doesn't involves any expense for away games.

    I'm inclined to agree with the idea that the game should be played with a winter break and a summer recess. Even here in SW England we have lost 5 weeks worth of games and training due to frozen pitches two years running. We're just moving into the cold and waterlogged phase which is not much fun for players or spectators.

    The difficulty here for ordinary clubs is that the grounds become pretty hard from May onwards and, even if the over-macho South Africans play on hard pitches, it's dangerous for mortal players and the amatuers who still have to go to work on Monday morning, so extending the season into June and July is not practical. You can also make light of public school cricketing types but you simply can't, even with the wicket roped off, combine the length of grass for rugby with that required for a cricket outfield.

  • Comment number 16.

    #15 Bold statements about parochialism, duplicated bureaucracy and disparate playing standards but again no examples to back them up. Are there any examples of these things happening in England, Wales, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or France? If so, how do these nations deal with them?

    Of the top ten rugby playing nations in the world Scotland has amongst the fewest playing numbers and fewest number of clubs. Why then do we have the most number of national leagues? It is a hangover from an era long gone in all other countries.

  • Comment number 17.

    On the subject of how other nations do it, take Wales as an example. They have approximately 70 more clubs than Scotland, 15,000 more players, 1,700 more referees (www.irb.com) and a much smaller geographic area to cover. Wales have one national league with all other leagues being regional, e.g. League One is split East, West and North.

    If we look at England with 2,099 clubs, 2.5 million players, 34,550 referees and 3 national leagues. Almost ten times the size (number of clubs), better road, rail and air infrastructures and half the number of national leagues than Scotland.

  • Comment number 18.

    It sounds like a problem of too many leagues rather than too big a distance between the clubs, regionalisation stifles teams like Ellon or Aberdeen Grammar who play at a level about the local competition.

    I agree with Coully, regionalisation would kill off any ambition rugby in the north has.

    Simple fact is that competition in a league needs to come from teams that are around the same skill levels rather than around the corner and if that means the odd day where you have to travel out with your own post code then so be it.

    The All Blacks famously blame Scotland and their fielding a weakened team during the RWC for costing them the trophy as they were not allowed a decent warm up game, if you regionalise rugby in Scotland then surely teams which suddenly find themselves in less competitive leagues will have the same gripe when it comes to cup competition.

    I haven't looked into this so don't shoot me down if I am wrong but rather than looking for direct comparisons from other rugby playing countries would we not be better looking at how other sports within our own country deal with geography? Have a look at how the SFA structures the Scottish Football Leagues and see if there are any lessons we can learn from them as to where regionalisation begins.

    The other difficult aspect is promotion / relegation, what happens if hypothetically a team tops a regional league for 10 years and never loses a game? They can't get promotion into the National leagues and as I said before the lack of competition hardly makes it likely they can put together a good cup run. Should they be penalised because of their location?

  • Comment number 19.

    I think the arguement that others teams strugle to travel such long distances pales greatly when you have teams like Orkney and Shetland make very long trips every other week and no matter how the leagues are structured will still have to make these trips. The biggest problem I see with the travel is teams from the south not wanting to travel north.

  • Comment number 20.

    It comes down to the words "Premier" and "National" to some clubs as a status symbol. If you have only two Premier/National leagues and everything under them is regional, it means that the good teams rise quicker to the top divisions and the players get spotted by the pro coaches quicker!!!! How many good players in the north and highlands of Scotland don't get a chance play in the pro teams?!?!?!? Leagues are there to help the Pro and national teams to develop talent.... The Leagues are not there for self interest. Look at Football!!!! I rest my case!!! Dying on its feet.... Mixu Paatelainen, Kilmarnock Manager "I'll play foreign, before playing home grown" want to go down these lines?!?!?!?!?

  • Comment number 21.

    Alex #20

    I agree with you about some teams seeing the term "premier / national" as a status symbol.

    Not sure of the rest of your post though. There's no doubt that the club teams are there to help boost the national team to as high as it can get but the idea that it's the only reason the clubs exist seems a bit silly. I will never play for Scotland, doesn't make me any less passionate about my local rugby club and shouldn't devalue the games I do play in. It's not all about developing the next Scotland superstar, if he passes through my league then great but it's more down to my club doing well with the players we have. The introduction of multi-millionaire owners in the football league was always going to lead to success rather than sustainability being the prime aim but I can't see rugby following the same path.

    Footballs problem is not the league structure, rugby can learn plenty of lessons from them about how to organise a league - how the coaches organise their teams in that league is up to them, football has got it wrong and that's plain to see but that in itself is a lesson.

    Difference with football and rugby is that you are right the main aim of rugby is the success of the national side, with football it's all about the money.

  • Comment number 22.

    John,

    Great article, nice to see that this issue is finally being raised for a great debate!

    Tell me though, were you triggered to write this article as your team (Glasgow Accies) face the daunting trip North this weekend to play my team Aberdeenshire?

    abzrugby makes an extremely valid point.
    I played in the Caledonia 1 league for 3 seasons with Shire, and found that in each season, there would be 2 or maybe 3 strong teams topping the league who never really played competitively until coming up against each other. The result being (with only one promotion spot) that the league was literally decided on the result of one match: Promotion contenders 1 vs Promotion contenders 2!

    This was not only frustrating as it was an extremely difficult league to get out of, but as a player it was extremely boring! There is no fun in going round the corner to play your local teams and winning by 50 points every weekend. If you want to encourage rugby playing then there needs to be some more committment from the teams in the south!

    See you at the game on Saturday, and enjoy the bus trip back! ;0)

  • Comment number 23.

    I take it we are proposing ringfencing these 4 leagues (2 Premier, 2 National)?

  • Comment number 24.

    17 Philip

    Sorry...I didn't mean to stir your nationalistic ire. It was after all just a point of view with which some other contributors agree.

    We do have a lot more clubs in England, but then we have a lot more people in general, so it's probably easier to find fixtures within striking distance. I'm not at all sure that we have dramatically superior road and air links when compared to the rugby playing areas of Scotland ( I'm not sure that too much rugby is played anywhere NW of the Great Glen) and the road links in many places in metropolitan England are no better in terms of travel times.

    I'm still mystified by the clubs/player numbers stat that is whipped out any time someone is trying to make a point. I know that it is the RFU's figure but a simple calculation would mean that each club has on average nearly 1200 playing members! I been around rugby most of my life and I've never seen a club with such playing resources...let alone one with a ground capable of giving everyone a game, even if they played by relay round the clock! I suspect that it is more the RFU kite-flying for Sport England than reality.

  • Comment number 25.

    #18 SPL clubs are debating 2 national leagues with a regional structure below. How does regionalisation stifle clubs like Ellon or Aberdeen Grammar and how does it kill off any ambition that clubs in the north might have?

    If a club has an ambition to get to Premier 1 and currently sits in Caledonia 1 then it will be a minimum of 5 years for them to get there. The proposal to the AGM last summer removed 2 of these rungs on the ladder. So, how does that stifle ambition?

    #23 You might be but nobody else has even mentioned it.

  • Comment number 26.

    Great post John and here are some thoughts for discussion:

    1. Keep the 3 premier leagues with 12 each and then regionalise below that. Home and away that would give 22 games. Regional leagues would need to beef up number of teams to about 16 per league to ensure enough games.
    2. Scrap current cup competitions
    3. Cup competition should be as follows: Create regional champions league format for the 36 teams in Premiers 1 to 3. 4 teams per group - home and away fixtures to give 6 games. Winners of each group go through apart from two lowest scoring teams who play off to make up the final place. Knock out once into last eight. Scottish Rugby Champions League final to be played at Murrayfield.
    4. 8 Best placed 2nd placed team play off for bowl
    5. Final 2nd placed team and 7 best 3rd placed teams play for plate
    6. Remaining teams - tails between legs and think about next season

    So your thinking how would this be structured. Here goes an example:

    Champions League Borders Group 1: Gala, Hawick, Melrose, Kelso
    Champions League Borders Group 2: Jed, Biggar, Peebles, Selkirk
    Champions League Edinburgh & Fife Group 1: Heriots, Currie, Falkirk, Howe of Fire
    Champions League Edinburgh & Fife Group 2: Watsonians, Boroughmuir, Edin Accies, Haddington
    Champions League Edinburgh & Fife Group 3: Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, Stew Mel, Musselburgh
    Similarly 3 groups for Glasgow region
    Similary 1 group for North

    What do you think? Mad, but would bring back the local rivalries big style.

  • Comment number 27.

    #24 Anglophone. You didn't stir any nationalistic ire. The thing is that they agree with the statements but they don't know why as there is no evidence to back them up.

    Every time that I ask for the objections to be proven, or at least give some examples of instances of them, they turn out to be nothing but Scotch Mist.

    That the SRU decide to accept these statements without question leads me to think that they are not willing to undertake the changes needed to take the club game forward in Scotland.

    As to the numbers, I know that they are far from perfect (The SRU figures still suffer from an element of double counting) but they are published on the IRB website for all to see. Use them as an indicator rather than hard fact.

  • Comment number 28.

    Picked this up from another forum:

    " QUOTE:
    "A systematic review of the whole of community rugby is required, so that all fear can be exposed, and the best and most sensible way forward for developing a model for Scottish community rugby that feeds and builds our pro game can be discussed and implemented."


    That would be the logical way to approach it in principle. If it was any other home union, I'd say go for it, because they all seem to have pretty high-powered, bright folks with some vision on the community rugby/union side. With the SRU, I have profound doubts.

    They don't exactly lead the game and when they do, like the present league reorganisation, it promptly flip-flops into some twilight zone, with odd decisions, political favours and a complete absence of any persuasive zeal. The core problem is, if all a Union really wants is a quiet life and keeping in with enough clubs, then there's no motivation to change anything, make any progress or do the right thing.

    The flaw in the systematic review is that it assumes the Union and clubs are open to change and progress and care about the Pro teams. We've just has good examples from Premier 3 and Gordon McKie respectively that neither are actually accurate. I also, maybe pessimistically, very much doubt the clubs' ability to get on top of a comprehensive review process and drive it through, there are not that many who see the big picture and are willing to roll their sleeves up to help realise it.

    The only way I can see change happening is by one small step at a time. FOSRS opened up the regionalisation issue 18 months ago, a year after the SRU's previous proposals had bombed, and, after every trial and tribulation, it is now heading to some kind of semi-useful, semi-daft decision.

    Better-weather rugby will be another of the same. If anything useful comes out of the SRU, that actually addresses and overcomes the many complex issues involved, I will be most surprised, nay gob-smacked. FOSRS meant to open up the issue last year but we had too many fish to fry at the time with the SRU's tiring antics. The programme sits here, ready to roll. Given that it will probably take a couple of years of argy-bargy to get throught the SRU in any semblance of semi-order, perhaps we better get on with it.

    And so on. Sometimes in advertising, it is not possible to put in place a holistic solution that addresses the full panoply of client needs. There's not the budget, client buy-in, client vision, there's self-serving departmental resistance, etc. So one ends up addressing and ticking each box in turn and, in that roundabout way, arriving eventually at an holistic solution at the end of the trail.

    That's my rather disillusioned view about getting anything simple and logical through the SRU. Swimming through treacle backwards would be far easier and more enjoyable!"

    So John, there you have it.

  • Comment number 29.

    Philip,

    Enjoying the debate and I too like a good fact. On the other hand, as comedian Stewart Lee says, "You can prove anything with facts".

    Surely the opinions of those actually playing the game at National One and Premier Three level count for something? If the N1 and P3 clubs don't want to move into a regional league then they cannot be forced to no matter how frustrated your arguments become. As I said above, no one I know who plays in N1 wants to play in a regional league and statistics are unlikely to change their minds. We enjoy our bus journeys and relish the challenge of a tough away match. 5 out of 52 Saturdays can be planned for and as stated many times, if the North can do it every fortnight then everyone else can manage it a few times a season.

    Other thoughts:

    - Maybe there is a status (real or imagined) attached to playing in a national league / premiership. If so then that is a good thing - it encourages youngsters in clubs to work to get into the first fifteen and attracts bigger crowds.

    - I disagree that more local derbies will be better than national competition, they will be boring and repetitive (I have no facts to back this up). WingMan Mike put it well. From what I have seen West versus East often has more bite and bigger crowds than local derbies (again, a fact free statement).

    - Regarding your point about P3 clubs and travel, I really don't see the P3 clubs having an issue if Highland et al are promoted. Many of the teams in P3 were recently in the National leagues and coped fine with journeys to Caithness, Highland, Ellon, and Aberdeenshire. (e.g. Whitecraigs, Dalziel, Ardrossan, Hamilton, with Lasswade / Greenock / Garnock set to join them).

    - You state that local businesses would rather sponsor a club in a regional set up instead of a national one. I presume you have canvassed said businesses and have the data to back up your statement.

    - You ask how many good players in the north don't get a chance to play in the pro teams? Well, Kris Hamilton from Caithness played for Scotland U19s after playing for their 1st XV in cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. I'm not sure how playing Orkney every second week will help similar players get their chance. (Granted one example does not a trend make although remember the player base in the North is very small).

    - Why shouldn't clubs act in their own interest? (We live, after all, in the land of Adam Smith). And if the N1 and P3 clubs don't believe the regionalisation proposals are in their interests then you guys have more work to do to persuade them that they are.


    Good luck in your endeavours.


  • Comment number 30.

    Scotland is a Nation and like any other travelling is mandatory if you play sport to create strong leagues and good competition. Players need to challenged and play better players to learn and expand. As an ex professional the regionalisation proposed is entirely WRONG its serves one purpose those clubs who dont want to travel and have little ambition. The change would diminish the hard work clubs like Ellon, Orkney,Livingston and many others who have paid and developed to move up the leagues and earn their position.Also how can it be right a club moves up the leagues into a league which they have not earnt the right by promotion to go into? This will reduce the player base, damage the North and East and stifle real progress. Coaches will move because they want to coach at the highest level like players want to play at the highest level. The answer? Let those clubs in National 1 alone and any club that does not want to travel then stay Regional. One final point what about those clubs in the bottom league why do they have to play a further 6 games even though they have won or come second in their own league it should be a straight promotion demotion. It seems looking after the elite does not foster ambition so the smaller clubs if they get backing and players why cant they be allowed to move up and onward.

  • Comment number 31.

    Various statements have been made around playing in better weather surely the answer is more investment into the sport to deliver better pitches and facilities. Why should again the player pool for other sports be challenged in the summer like cricket, athletics, Rugby league and more again other nations cope well enough. We need to make the gamee more exciting more relevant and work harder at bringing it to the front of prospectiev players minds. The risk of serious injury has alwayes been a negative yet Horse riding and many other sports sit well above Rugby in the serious injury league. So right now surely the answer is invest and drive the sport forward in a positive supportive way not change leagues etc help clubs to get better venues and upgrade as football has done.

  • Comment number 32.

    As an ex-player who spent most of my playing career unmarried and with no kids, I used to love a bus trip more than most. These were basically the highlight of my season. I suppose I was kind of lucky to avoid any "situation" with my wife regarding overnighters/full days etc. (I retired at 29 due to a couple of horrednous injuries), and now that I've got a kid on the way I can only suppose that it would have been even harder to play in away games that required a long trip.

    I also think that men are a wee bit more likely, these days, to take their roles as fathers and husbands a bit more seriously than in times gone by. Unfortunately for any governing body, this results in sport dropping down the list of priorities.

    What I am basically trying to say is that I think you would find that the game might lose less married men and fathers to retirement if it were to be regionalised, especially if it meant that every game only took up a few hours of Saturday, still allowing for family time etc.

    This would most definitely make a difference at 2nd XV level, and the odd older 1st XV player, but...
    ....most of the higher level players aren't married or family men, so I don't see any advantage that regionalising will have on the higher levels (Prem 3 and up), and for future success of the game at Pro and International level, I think that the SRU will probably stick with teh status quo.

    If they really wanted to increase success, then they should concentrate on getting their approach towards youth rugby sorted out once and for all, but thats an entirely different matter....

  • Comment number 33.

    I don't think regionalisation in the south of scotland would work. There are only a few teams near each other and surely annan who look to be going to nat 3 and dumfries in prem 3 although about 15 miles apart are too wide apart in league sense? Then theres Langholm in nat 1 and where do you go from there to get more teams in this league?

    If somebody could draw a wee league for the south or suggest who would all be included i think they'd be doing qite well.

  • Comment number 34.

    abzrugby #21

    How do you know your not good enough, the current league structure doesn't help you. You could be a good/great player, but until a good/great coach spots you how would you really know. There are too many levels.

  • Comment number 35.

    Alex,

    Coully can confirm I am not good enough! I do think there must be a better way to split up the leagues but genuinely leagues should be structured to mean every game is as close as possible (in skill levels, not locations).

    I am ignorant on how we can achieve a fair league system, I can't provide an answer and if regionalisation is actually the fairest way then so be it, I just feel from experience and as others have said the skill levels of teams that are near each other do not necessarily stack up for a good league.

    Also, picture the teams at the lower levels in these leagues, it's a shame the upper level teams won't get regular high levels of competition but think of the other side of the coin. What about the teams who suddenly find themselves in a league where they never win a game, where the never score a try?! How many of the lower level players would this drive out of the game?

  • Comment number 36.

    Using Football again!!! Just look at what the SFJA did a few years ago. Merge small regional leagues into super leagues Glasgow Distict and Ayrshire jointed together to form Super one and two and still have the regional structure for the clubs that didn't want to travel.

    How about:
    Premier 1, 2 & 3 (12 teams)
    National West, East, South, North (12 teams)
    Regional Glasgow, Ayrshire, Lothian, etc (various divisions, various teams)

    Three down, three up. National have a playoff for three places in Premier 3. Example: a club in Glasgow 2 will only take 6 years play in Premier 1.

  • Comment number 37.

    #33 I think that you can still find the proposal that was made to the AGM last year complete with example leagues that were based on the position at the end of last season. It may also be on the SRU website.

  • Comment number 38.

    #28 You make a make couple of interesting points. Stewart Lee may well be right but on the other hand you cannot prove anything without facts.

    To answer your point about canvassing local businesses as a small business owner. In the current climate I have to think very carefully about where I spend my marketing budget. As my target market is local to my base, say within 70 miles, there is no point in me sponsoring a club that plays 50% of it's matches more than 100 miles away unless you add emotion back into the equation.

    If I am sponsoring for different reasons, e.g. supporting the local community or I like rugby, then that is a very different matter. For example, I sponsor my local rugby club senior 15 and a global bank sponsors the Junior section of the club. I do it to raise brand awareness (my excuse) in the community and I like rugby. The global bank sponsors the Junior section to support the local community.

    Neither I nor JPM Morgan are too fussed about which league the senior 15 play in.

    As you can imagine, it is far easier to get sponsorship deals in major conurbations than it is in rural parts. However, if a local business in a rural area is going to sponsor a rugby club it is more likely to be a local one irrespective of which league it is in. Also, I would expect to pay more to sponsor a club higher up the league structure and this is where the P3 argument does hold a little water. However, they are still in league positions 25-36 and will still have those positions available if we were to regionalise below P2.

    I don't recall asking about players in the north not getting their opportunity. However, to answer the point the SRU now has a network of regional development officers who work closely with clubs and schools. Part of their remit is to identify talent.

    Rugby in the north is seeing something of a revival at the moment but getting to the upper echelons of the leagues is taking clubs like Caithness and Orkney forever. Will they get there before the money and enthusiasm runs out? Regionalising below P2 takes away 2 rungs in the ladder making it quicker (not easier) for ambitious clubs to rise and failing clubs to find their new level.

    I grew up in the south east of Scotland at a time when just about every game was a local derby and the rivalry intense (such that Borders pro team failed to attract big enough crowds). Perhaps I am approaching the local derby aspect with rose tinted glasses but a bigger visiting support for each home game provides an opportunity to fleece them at the bar whatever the result on the pitch.

  • Comment number 39.

    All I know is I stopped playing because the travel was becoming too much for me and I'm unmarried and without kids.

    The arguement that your local teams will not be good enough competition is a wee bit far fetched, regionalising the leagues allows for shorter distances but it will be structured so teams of an equal level will still get the chance to play each other - some teams will still have to travel to some regional games but only 20/30 miles not in the case of some games hundreds of miles.

    The leagues need to be regionalised, simple as.

  • Comment number 40.

    Betsenbell,

    There's several formats been suggested, one of the favourites has south and east together in one region, with two other regions of West and Caley. These regional leagues would start below Prem 3.

    Based on current league position, East 1 would consist of :
    Musselburgh
    Livingston
    Edinburgh Uni
    RHC
    Langholm
    Linlithgow
    Murrayfield Wands
    Hawick YM
    Berwick
    Preston Lodge

    There have been more radical suggestions, including regionalising below Prem 2 - first a split between East and West, then again after this to three regions.

  • Comment number 41.

    Also, regionalisation won't elimate the bus journey, have a look at the current West Region - Oban, Wigtownshire, Mull, Bute.

    So whilst regionalisation will still allow day trips like these, they should help to reduce the number of weekends away for Clubs.


  • Comment number 42.

    Regionalisation only works from Perth down where there are enough teams to allow a competitive league structure. The majority of teams in both the current National and Premier setup come from the central belt anyway and travel costs only get increased when games are in the northern ares. Even then travel time for a team travelling to the likes of Inverness or even Wick is only increased by half an hour when travelling from Glasgow/Edinburgh compared to that of Aberdeen (check any good route planner). And when you consider the amount of teams which actually play in National 1 or above in the north of Scotland you only have a handful of sides spread throughout the top 4 divisions. Now surely it seems a bit rash to regionalise everything for the sake of 1 big bus trip a season? The teams in Aberdeen for example if regionalised would still have to travel to Inverness, Wick, Shetland and Orkney, places which are equally accessible and at no real greater cost for teams in central regions.

  • Comment number 43.

    Well done John. Now that you have seen the light and entered into grass roots debate I will take back all the swear words I vented towards you. The SRU need to do the same! The longer the SRU are wrapped up in cotton wool the longer the recovery process will take. Get real with the grass roots and support them and the volume of good players will return. In today's SRU regime, if you are not in the fold by the age of 15 you won't make the grade! Fact ! I know this first hand as one of my old playing pals would never have played 300+ games for Melrose with the current SRU set up. He didn't physically mature until 18 ! How much money do we pay these so called SRU development coaches???? FAR TOO MUCH !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 44.

    Credit where credit is due, Mr Beattie! Looking at the six nations squad...great contribution from you and West of Scotland! It's just two years since I was regularly watching Jon Welsh, Richie Gray and Robert Harley play in your West pack alongside Gordon Bulloch & Guy Perrett. What they learned then from playing week by week beside these guys and under your coaching has stood them in good stead. Richie Vernon and Roddy Grant regularly played in that pack too. And Graham Fisken and Elliott McLaren have both gained representative honours from it.

    Not quite sure about what has happened to the backs! Peter Horne was playing for you that season, as were Connor Davis, Michael Sim and Jamie Hunter, none of whom have quite hit the heights predicted for them. But then again, I don't think you ever claimed to understand back play!

  • Comment number 45.

    West doesn't mean Glasgow, East doesn't mean Edinburgh, South doesn't mean the Borders. The names I gave were examples, doesn't mean anything, just a title on the division/league. The boundaries will change and move as time goes on when teams go and down the structure. But we need a more flat structure. I have always found that the best structure is 3 to 5 levels, if this can be achieved.

  • Comment number 46.

    #43 Why would your old pal not have played 300+ games for Melrose under the current SRU regime? What has the SRU got to do with Melrose's selection policy?

    Other than that, I agree with #43's comments about the SRU. They need to be taking the lead here, not breaking at every objection.

  • Comment number 47.

    The case for regionalisation is actually pretty strong.

    Travel is one issue. It's about 10,000 miles collectively in Premier 1, 12,000 in Premier 2, etc. By the time it gets to National Divs 2 and 3, it's 36,000 and 33,000 respectively, which is colossal! (That's because they include Orkney, Caithness, Highland, Aberdeenshire and Gordonians in the north... and Stewartry, Newton Stewart, Annan, Langholm, Hawick YM and Berwick in the south, so everyone is criss-crossing the country in coaches at enormous expense every weekend). A more ridiculous way of organising leagues could hardly be envisaged. The simple fact is that few clubs can afford it and they are now voting with their feet in favour of regionalisation.

    Slow promotion is another factor. Scotland has about the longest 'linear' league system in the rugby world, due to its six national leagues. It takes clubs years to climb from the districts to the top and cannot be done in one generation of players, which saps much player and volunteer enthusiasm. Scotland has 8 rungs on its league ladder, Wales for instance, with half as many clubs again, has just 6. By being regionalised, it is a flatter structure and getting to the top is achievable in a shorter time-frame.

    Put these two factors together and you get a third: very poor player retention. Many players will not or cannot take on all-day coach trips to distant places every other weekend and there is a high drop-out rate. Slow progress up the long league ladder leads to many more packing it in.

    The plain fact is our system is years behind the rugby world. Everyone else has abandoned it. Among the home nations, Wales has just one national league (used to be 5), England two (used to be 4), Ireland 2 (used to be 3) and so on. Why Scotland would want 6 national leagues, despite the high cost to clubs and player retention, defies all commonsense.

    It is almost a definite that regionalisation will start below Premier 3. It would be more logical below Premier 2 or National 1, but the SRU was never renowned for its logic. When Aberdeenshire and others grumble that they would be stuck playing in isolation against uncompetitive teams, that is honestly cobblers! Here is the proposed make-up of the Caledonia league that they would play in:

    Dunfermline
    Ellon
    Highland
    Caithness
    Aberdeenshire
    Orkney
    Gordonians
    Strathmore
    Hillfoots
    Glenrothes

    Aberdeenshire would be lucky to be in the top half of that league! Can't see how it is 'uncompetitive' or 'parochial' or 'rugby apartheid', as their speaker described it at the last SRU AGM. They have to be sensible and recognise that, for clubs travelling from the Borders, Edinburgh or Glasgow, trips to Aberdeen, Inverness, Thurso, Lerwick etc are just a bridge or three too far, too expensive and too problematic, indeed clubs openly admit they have trouble getting a 1st XV to turn out for them.

  • Comment number 48.

    47 #

    How would this league work. How many go up and too where? How many go down? If the logic is to lessen expensive travel then I doubt if this makes any difference to most in this league, indeed it probably increases travel and costs!
    The real thing that concerns me is we end up with a 2 tier standard as in the past where you have the central belt and the teams north of Perth. Surely if we want to improve the standard nationally then we need to have national, competitive leagues and make provision for those who do not wish/ cannot afford to travel.
    As a 12 year veteran of Junior football we had regional leagues and when the northern teams went south into the central belt we usually got beat and many teams got humped. Be very carefully what you wish for.
    One question has not been answered for me if teams are willing to travel and are competitive why stop them? - Purely because a few central belt teams don't want to have a day out once in a blue moon, aww shame. Look at the likes of Highland, Orkney and Ellon who travel long distances every other week, do they want this change?
    This may also affect the younger ones which I coach, we have contacts with clubs as far south as "West of Scotland" do we stop traveling and lessen the average standard of teams the kids get to play against?? Kids aspire to play in the 1st 15 and even more so when they see them in the better leagues. I'm rambling now but to summarise not against it but many many questions to be addressed.

  • Comment number 49.

    Philip message 46. More youths playing rugby will give greater volume of good players. Yeh? Current sru youth policy picks out the best 15 year olds who have shown potential and they are streamline coached to better things. yeh? The young players feel they have been left out of this set up then leave the game. My angle...More players = more competition = more youths maturing into good players = greater volume of players for selection = greater strength and depth of players available for our national team. We simply don't have enough people playing in Scotland to narrow the volume down to 15 - 16 yr olds being the future. We need all the youth being coached to the highest level up to 18, then select the best for intense coaching. My Pal who played umpteen games for Melrose was coached all the way through his school years. How many schools do that Now????

  • Comment number 50.

    48 #

    “How would this league work. How many go up and too where? How many go down?”

    Under current SRU proposal, top team in each regional league – West, East and Caledonia – goes up to Premier 3. The bottom two in each are relegated to the next regional league (West 2, East 2 and Caledonia 2). It’s the same way rugby works in the other Home unions and elsewhere.

    “If the logic is to lessen expensive travel then I doubt if this makes any difference to most in this league, indeed it probably increases travel and costs!”

    Wrong. It was estimated previously, in detail, that the mileage/cost in the National leagues and Premier 3 would be cut by 54%, from 104,000 or something to 58,000 or thereabouts. Stands to reason if you don’t have to travel from Orkney and Aberdeen to Berwick, Newton Stewart etc.

    “The real thing that concerns me is we end up with a 2 tier standard as in the past where you have the central belt and the teams north of Perth.”

    No reason to suppose that. All three of these regional leagues would primarily involve teams currently playing in National Divisions 1, 2 and 3, though I wish it was just 2 and 3. They would be equally competitive, there is no reason why Caledonia would be any different. Highland, Caithness and Aberdeenshire are all in the top half of Nat Div 2, beating East and West teams, Orkney could well join them next season, etc.

    “Surely if we want to improve the standard nationally then we need to have national, competitive leagues and make provision for those who do not wish/ cannot afford to travel.”

    This is an old chestnut! There is a sensible balance to be struck between (a) playing nationally to get (supposedly) high standards and (b) playing regionally to reduce long travel and cost and try to retain players. Virtually every rugby union draws the line between them below the top one or two leagues, which play nationally, with the rest playing regionally. There is no benefit from, reason for or desire among clubs to have six leagues and half the clubs playing nationally.

    You need to understand that the pressure for change comes from the clubs themselves. They cannot afford the travel and they cannot get the players to turn out for full-day away trips or overnights every other week. There is no appetite in National Divs 1, 2 or 3 to play nationally and you can count the number of clubs who wish to do so on the fingers of one hand.

    “One question has not been answered for me if teams are willing to travel and are competitive why stop them? - Purely because a few central belt teams don't want to have a day out once in a blue moon, aww shame. Look at the likes of Highland, Orkney and Ellon who travel long distances every other week, do they want this change?”

    Highland, among others, have apparently already said that they cannot afford to continue the long travel and that, unless their league is regionalised, they may have to drop out of the leagues. That is echoed around the country, it is little to do with ‘a few central belt teams’.

    The idea that clubs opt in and out of national leagues is actually unworkable, you would just get weak national AND weak regional leagues. It would create a level of organisational anarchy which no rugby union or any other sport would or could accept and which none has accepted. The Union will draw a sensible line between national and regional level, as every other union does, and the overwhelming majority of clubs will support it because it suits their needs. If some want to play nationally but are in a regional league, the simple answer is to do their talking on the pitch and win promotion, not expect the system to be designed around them, like the Aberdeenshires of the world seem to expect.

    I think you are living in the past, when long coach trips were affordable and the players happy to do scenic Scotland on a bus most weekends. That has all changed dramatically, as John’s blog touches on.

    Clubs simply cannot afford £2,000, £3,000 or more – some in the North are paying out close to £10,000, and that’s all got to be raised by volunteers - in coach hire per season, when they could halve that by playing more local games. Many of the players have wives, families, girlfriends, weekend jobs, DIY chores and other attractions/obligations at the weekend and are not willing to give up the whole day for 80 minutes of rugby. Nearly all National league clubs are struggling to even get a 1st XV on the bus for the longer away trips/overnights, the players are voting with their feet. You are swimming firmly against the tide here.

    Youth and school rugby is a completely different and wide-ranging subject but not one John goes into in his blog. Happy to discuss that to death another time and more suitable place.

  • Comment number 51.

    As a supplement to this debate, what are typical match attendances by visiting supporters?

    At present, the vast majority of supporters will only see matches every second week as they do not do cross-country travelling.

    Therefore, if leagues are regionalised, the impacts could be:

    1. Reduced travelling costs
    2. Increased away support creating greater bar revenues for the home clubs
    3. Greater exposure for sponsors/advertisers

    The argument that advertisers only wish to be associated with national leagues is frankly scoffable as the only exposure they get is every 2 weeks to the same supporters who are all local.

    Regarding the notion that players gain better chances of improvement when there are 9 steps to P1 when that could be reduced to 4 or 5 is a completely false argument. The typical career in a 1st XV will only be 9 or 10 years!

    Lastly, if our structure is so great, how come all the other fools who have a regional system are consistently better than us?

  • Comment number 52.

    I'm Welsh so admit i know little about scottish rugby's lower league's !
    But with reference to an earlier comment that Scotland need more than two pro clubs , i think the first thing scottish rugby needs is more supporters. Edingburgh recently played the Scarlets at home in the Magners in front of 1800 people ! On checking other attendances around the UK on the same day there where better crowds in the third tier of english rugby. So how could extra pro clubs in scotland be sustained with such poor suport ?

  • Comment number 53.

    Structure is important but more relevant is the weather. My club has not played since 6 November, games off today. When will we think seriously about playing at a different time of year? We can't predict when to have a mid season break at present.

    I am a strong advocate for summer rugby. Time for the SRU to take the lead?

    There will be difficulties for some clubs but with Friday night rugby, a willingness to "share" facilities, we an do so much more to promote rugby to a wider market.

  • Comment number 54.

    #52 makes an excellent point and it should be made to the SRU and Gordon McKie in particular.

    Gordon McKie, Chief Executive Officer of the SRU, is on record as saying that he does not care about crowd sizes as they make only a marginal contribution to the overall revenues of the SRU. He is also on record as saying that he does not mind if Edinburgh and Glasgow's best players move away from Scotland. The SRU Chief Financial Officer stated on oath, not so long ago, that he was not aware of the level of revenue generated by Edinburgh home games.

    This apparent incompetence at the top coupled with the complete inability or unwillingness on the part of the SRU to market the game effectively in Edinburgh and Glasgow will lead to the slow, lingering death of the professional game in Scotland.

    Crowd sizes in Edinburgh and Glasgow will get smaller as opposition fans also decide not to bother making the trip north to see their 2nd or 3rd XV get a run out against the boys of the "Elite Academy".

  • Comment number 55.

    I am absolutely gob smacked that the chief executive of the SRU would make such a statement ! First of all crowds/fans are not just about revenue the game is for the fans and the players raise there game when supported ! Therefore success of the team is reliant on support and without success corporate support will also diminish leading to an eventual end.

  • Comment number 56.

    Redport, after the way Gordon McKie has treated the Edinburgh fans this year I think the Edinburgh CEO will only be able to dream of a crowd of 1800 next season.

    You can read all of his comments at http://thescotsman.scotsman.com in the sports section. They make pretty scary reading for Scottish rugby fans. A CEO who is out to destroy professional rugby and take Scotland out of the elite rugby playing nations.

    Gordon McKie should be moved on before he causes any more damage.

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 58.

    Mr Beattie, What's your angle on the boss of Scottish rugby and the current debacle? You seem to do plenty blogs but very rarely return the banter with your thoughts. I know you have to mute some of your thoughts but is seems the emperror isn't wearing any clothes but you all are frightened to tell him. There are far too many ex internationalists hanging on and sitting on the fence. Are you one of them??????

  • Comment number 59.

    I believe that making it regional below prem 2 is not the way to go. I am a young fly half currently playing in prem 3 and am enjoying the level of rugby as it is a decent standard. I feel that the standard would dip if prem 3 were to join with national 1 in a regional format. The better players in the former prem 3 clubs would almost feel they have taken a step down as the level competition would not be as fierce, these players may move to "premier" clubs and the nucleus of the team may be lost. The word "premier" is undoubtedly important in this argument, players are always looking to play at as high a level as possible and if there were only two premier leagues then players from the former prem 3 clubs would be looking to move. Also there is no gaurantee that a two regional leagues would work out evenly and as mentioned the standard would drop considerably. Finally, currently the travelling is not that bad in prem 3 and sometimes you have to listen to the "im alright Jack" argument.

  • Comment number 60.

    59 - In your plea for keeping 3 x Premier leagues playing nationally, how do you explain that no other Home union and virtually none further afield has more than two leagues playing nationally, indeed has deliberately cut down to that number? There is no obvious reason to make some special case for clubs 25-36, they are not in the Performance rugby tier and are just A N Other league. Indeed, a lot of clubs are asking why we need 3 Premier leagues anyway. It is not only grammatically erroneous, being as how 'Premier' means the best one, it has also bred a caste of 36 clubs that think their private club is superior to the hoi-poloi playing in the other leagues and they can do what they wish. This kind of faux elitism really has no place in amateur rugby and the sooner it is ended, the better. Premier 3 should indeed be scrapped and replaced by East and West leagues involving the National 1 clubs, as the SRU originally proposed. Reality is that there is little difference in playing ability between Premier 3 and National 1 and in practical terms this would cut travel across the leagues by 4,000 miles, which is hardly to be sneezed at. When you boil it down, Premier 3's case is wholly and solely about status, nothing to do with playing ability or regionalisation. The patience of the entire club game has been stretched to the edge by Premier 3's insistence on special treatment and the fact that the whole regionalisation thing has had to be revised and messed up to allow them to retain their wannabe position. Your 'I'm alright Jack' argument really sums up Premier 3's stance and outlook. A fact that has not gone unnoticed by the rest of the game and there is a healthy degree of exasperation with P3's antics and self-serving arguments now.

  • Comment number 61.

    60- I know throuigh experience that there is a significant difference between the level of clubs in prem 3 to national 1, il accept that the lower end clubs of premier 3 are around the same level as the national 1 clubs, but certainly not from about mid table in prem 3. Spliting into west and east would undoubtedly bring the level down, this can not be argued against (national leagues are bound to be stronger). I feel if your club was part of premier 3 you would have a very different attitude.

  • Comment number 62.

    61

    Looking at the past couple of seasons, I'm not sure the evidence of the promoted and relegated teams back this up:
    last season Whitecraigs and Dalziel promoted from Nat 1 - Whitecraigs currently top of Prem 3. Garnock and Irvine relegated, with Irvine going to be relegated again.
    Season 2009/10 - How of Fife & Dumfries promoted - Howe currently Prem 2, Dumfries mid table. Ellon & Livingston relegated with it looking unlikely that either will be getting promoted back to Prem 3 this season.

    Some might argue that the existence of Prem 3 is slowing down the progress of teams like Howe and Whitecraigs.

  • Comment number 63.

    62, Howe and dumfries actually got promoted in the 2008/09 and howe are still in prem 3, not prem 2 as u thought. Irvine are on a downward spiral which can be very hard to stop, whitecraigs are the opposite to this, which is also hard to stop. You are pointing out teams who are on a severe up or down and not the nucleus teams of prem 3, the ones who have been there for a few seasons, established. These teams such as hamilton, howe, ardrossan and cartha are definetaly a lot stronger than their nmational one counterparts. Making it regional as in east and west would only further bring down the level of competition and there is no garuantee of an even balance in both regions. I dont understand how prem 3 slows down the progress of clubs?explain?

  • Comment number 64.

    DPM, why would a league comprising P3 and N1 teams "bring down the level of competition"? A P3 team would still be playing P3 teams and the top N1 ones, so that wouldn't change anything. Are you objecting to playing a couple of lower N1 teams and getting some bigger wins? - doubt it somehow! There's actually hardly anything between the leagues, which is why clubs promoted from N1 tend to go straight to the top half of P3. Any differences in ability between top and bottom would anyway soon be resolved through promo and relegation, as it always has been with league changes. You seem to be arguing for the league structure to stay exactly as it is, frozen in time, so that you can enjoy "Premier" games (and status of course) against imaginary superior sides. I suspect the real fear of the P3 teams is that a lot of them would be beaten by the upstarts from N1 and the old status be a bit dented! The sooner we get rid of this Premier title the better, it seems to encourage delusions of grandeur!

  • Comment number 65.

    For the best for Scottish rugby, we need Clubs playing at their highest potential level.

    By having a linear league system it appears to me that the Falkirks and Whitecraigs of this world will take longer to reach that level than it should, and the same goes for the Irvines, Grangemouths, Cambuslangs - a flatter sytem surely means they reach their competitive level quicker.

  • Comment number 66.

    Nobody seems interested in debating the point made by me & by at least 1 other, so I will pose it again.

    Why do the other (some would argue consistently higher ranked) nations play regionally instead of in a linear league?

    Why do so many of us fail to see the correlation between the setup & the successes of the national & pro sides?

  • Comment number 67.

    Cripes, It would bring down the level as you would not get an even split of the prem 3 teams in each region, you may get more national one teams on one side of the country than the other or even get the better prem 3 sides all in one region. The fact that you say that some prem 3 teams are going to pick up bigger wins completely contradicts your argument. Bigger wins is precisely what bringig down the level is! The prem 3 sides do not have fear of national one sides and quite frankly that was a ridiculous argument you put forward to bolster your comment. I agree that the scottish rugby system does need revamped, however i dont have the solution and you certainly dont either. The constant battering of prem 3 clubs in this argument is totally irrelevant, its not their fault they are there. It doesnt matter how you move things about or dress it up, if u change the league system, the level of competition is undoubtedly going to change.

  • Comment number 68.

    "It would bring down the level as you would not get an even split of the prem 3 teams in each region, you may get more national one teams on one side of the country than the other or even get the better prem 3 sides all in one region."
    Wonder how the English, Welsh etc get exactly the same system to work so effortlessly then? There's two tricks to it. One, if there's more teams on one side than the other, you just switch "the nearest adjacent team" from East to West or vice versa. If you're in e.g. Dumfries, Linlithgow, Livingston or Perth, you're near enough equidistant between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Two is not to get too worked up and precious about having precisely equal numbers of Premier 3 teams, etc., as it will all sort itself out by promotion and relegation at end of the first season.
    Next season would need some switches to West:

    P3 West P3 East
    GHA Kirkcaldy
    Ardrossan Howe of Fife
    Cartha QP Morgan
    Dalziel Haddington
    Dumfries Perthshire
    Greenock Lasswade

    ... so that's Premier 3 evenly divided, plus from N1...

    Garnock Musselburgh
    Livingston Dunfermline
    Langholm Ellon
    Linlithgow Edinburgh Uni
    E Kilbride RHC
    Hawick YM
    Berwick


    So one further team would need to switch from East to West and Perthshire's the next most adjacent. You would thus have two pretty evenly-balanced leagues. Certainly that's how it works in other countries but being as we're about twenty years behind with our league structure, no doubt we know better from our goldfish bowl. The main things others would point to as the relevant details would be (a) 4,000 miles less travel this way (b) 4 promotions to these leagues, rather then Premier 3 being a bottleneck on the league ladder with two promotions. P3's determination to remain a special standalone league would not cut much ice in other unions, in fact none of them have a Premier 3 any more!

  • Comment number 69.

    You cant just move teams from one region to another, the boundaries would need to be strict. What happens if 4 teams from one region are promoted into the league, its a possibilty, then you wouldnt have a balance. This proposal you put forward is going to be very variable and unsettled, with teams in that equidistant area constantly in limbo at the start of each season waiting to find out which region they are going to be playing in. This proposal is not thought out, flimsy and certainly not better than the league system already in place. You have to stop comparing us to other unions, we are not the same as them and we have to accept the position we are in, this comparison seems to be solely what your argument is all about. Youve made it sound good and dressed it up well however there is holes and flaws all over the place in this proposal. Once again i dont claim to have the answer, im just saying that the system we have now is better than most of the regional strategies put forward.

  • Comment number 70.

    DPM,

    The current league system is better in what regards?

    It is costing National League Club 10s of £000s in travel costs, Clubs are complaining they can't get players to travel cause they're basically losing a weekend every few weeks, whilst some Clubs have suggested they may have to withdraw from the National Leagues.

    Scottish rugby does not have enough money to invest in the player/coach development and facilities that's required to move us forward, but a minority are happy that we continue to invest in bus companies.

  • Comment number 71.

    "You cant just move teams from one region to another, the boundaries would need to be strict."

    Why is that DPM? You are thinking of old district boundaries. The East and West here just mean East coast and West coast. If a team needs switched from one to the other to even up numbers, you just transfer the nearest adjacent team, not get hung up about red lines on maps.

    "What happens if 4 teams from one region are promoted into the league, its a possibilty, then you wouldnt have a balance."

    No, it's not a possibility, the max would be two and the answers are easy. Look at how our own Reserve leagues work below National Div 2! Or our leagues below National Div 3, when there are 3 relegations!

    "You have to stop comparing us to other unions, we are not the same as them"

    It's the SYSTEM that's being compared, not the UNION. Nobody else has our linear league system, they all abandoned it years ago! You need to go and look at how the English and Welsh pyramid systems work, you'll see that the game has moved on quite a long way from our pretty primitive league set-up.

  • Comment number 72.

    So you are going to have teams in central Scotland playing in a different league every year, at the start of every season waiting to see where the SRU are going to place them, Cripes come on, you know thats silly. To do that to clubs is unfair. I think you know yourself that the level of competition would drop considerably, you just dont want to admit it. If the leagues were to split at the moment the west would be a lot stronger than the east. Finally yes you do have stop comparing us to England and wales, playing numbers in England are much higher which allows them to have a regional set up whilst retaining a good competitive level. I think youl agree when i say that we dont have the same strength in depth in terms of the number of players. Therefore we dont have the numbers and enough strong teams in one region to regionalise prem 3 and national one together.

  • Comment number 73.

    I've read lots of the arguments, but the fundamental to me remains - rugby clubs aren't going to be able to spend money on driving up and down the country and travel is becoming harder not easier. It is certainly becoming dangerously expensive.

    Plus I don't think amateur players sign up to being away for a whole day from early in the morning to late at night, unless they want to be divorced or binned.

    JB

 

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