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Scots should reduce salaries and invest in youth

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John Beattie | 15:42 UK time, Sunday, 3 April 2011

What would you do to make Scottish rugby succeed?

I write this, as we get ready for a Sport Nation debate on the health of Scottish sport to be held at BBC Scotland HQ. On the panel are former athlete Liz McColgan, top cyclist Graeme Obree, Scottish Rugby chief executive Gordon McKie, and sportswriter Tom English.

And the temptation is to be negative, as that's arguably a Scottish trait. But should we be negative about the state of Scottish sport and in particular rugby?

Because, when it comes to sport, despite having the most clueless politicians and local authority heads perhaps in the world - yes, there's just a 27% success rate in reaching the minimum two hours of PE for Scottish schoolchildren, which was set as a national target over five years ago - we are ranked ninth in the world in rugby. It was sixth.

The older I get the more I think that, actually, politicians don't deliver anything. Rather it's civil servants who steer politicians and, frankly, civil servants don't give a monkey's about sporting targets.

So let's forget about politicians and move on ourselves.

Scotland captain Al Kellock leaves the field after a defeat to Wales

Scotland endured another miserable Six Nations campaign

With Scottish rugby boasting under 40,000 players as opposed to England's 2,000,000, Ireland's 153,000, France's 300,000 , and Italy's 66,000 then, on the face of it, finishing above Italy should be the realistic target.

Welsh rugby, surprisingly, has just 50,000 or so players.

I like realism. Realistically, Scottish rugby over-achieves at times. It would be preposterous for us to beat England, or ever win a Grand Slam.

And yet we have. Oh, we may get depressed - as I do - at Glasgow and Edinburgh's results, but is it really surprising?

Iain Morrison, writing in this weekend's newspapers, has put forward a few of his suggestions as to what we should do to help rugby thrive. Here are mine.

1. Lobby the lazy civil servants and local authority heads in Scotland to get more sport in school. They are allowing a generation of kids to leave education unable to run, jump, or catch anything except a bag of chips or a heavy cold.

I know it's mostly a personal choice and we can't rely on a nanny state, but it's a disgrace that allow so many young Scots to leave school so out of condition.

2. Rugby in Scotland has a disproportionate amount of lads in the national team who come from fairly well off backgrounds. Not all of them, that's not what I am saying, but my first point leads on to the second in that we need more sport in the state sector.

As Iain Morrison said, we need to reduce the emphasis of the private sector in rugby, as I am sure that there is a pro football bias in the media that, in some quarters, makes rugby an unfavourable investment as the "toff's game".

3. Reduce the salaries to Scottish professional players at the top level. I think some are over-paid. There are players who have basic salaries of between £100,000 and £200,000 a year.

I am sorry, but despite that not comparing to English or French money, I think that generates a level of comfort and players who want that income should be paid for by English or French teams.

The money should be much more bonus driven - if you beat England, sure, have a whopping dollop of cash. But not just to turn up.

4. Invest the bulk of the money into the 14 to 18 age bracket where players really develop.

I remember interviewing Professor Mike Stone, who was in charge of the US Olympic strength and conditioning programme. I asked him if it was too early for boys to start weight training aged 14. "No," he said. "It's too late!"

5. Make the club game more vibrant. I still love our club rugby, and it's clubs, actually, who find players in the first place and it's club people who watch the big stuff.

Look, I don't want to be negative, but I think we should only keep the players we can afford to keep in this country, we should tighten our belts when it comes to the professional teams, we should give new coaches and players their chances in those arenas, and we should continually aim higher than our resources suggest we might reach.

What would you do to make Scotland a better rugby nation?


  • Comment number 1.

    I agree that the way to improve Scottish Rugby is through improving grass-roots rugby.

    From what I remember about playing rugby at school is playing through Scottish winter, having 20 minutes of decent light after school, wet and muddy pitches and freezing cold hands. These conditions aren't particularly conducive to developing good handling or running skills, and during the summer months only the better players were involved in 7s.

    If we want kids to start enjoying rugby more and getting enthusiastic about the game, have them playing during the summer months when the pitches are dry. Not only would it be more fun but also gives kids the ability to develop the essential skills.

    And if the Mum's brigade come out and say that kids will get hurt on hard pitches, tell them to toughen up and point them in the direction of the South Africans playing on the Highveld. Or play touch rugby, it still develops handling and running at space rather than defenders.

    Possibly get some fresh blood involved in marketing the game to youngster, the both pro-team websites are terrible with limited interesting content, the SRU don't even have a Facebook page.

    Why not do a behind the scenes of the Scotland's build up to the RWC, with videos and interviews with the players involved. Look at the success of DVDs like "Living with the Lions" and how they have helped bring fans closer to the players and get excited about the game.

  • Comment number 2.


    Your comments about lack of PE in Scotland are so true! I live in Germany and when I come back to Scotland it looks like the scottish have the same obesity problem that you see in many parts of the USA. Not only is lack of sport bad for the physical side of things it also has a significant impact on your ability to learn.

    To the rugby question:

    Get rid of the scottish pro teams and expose the professional players to the market forces in France and England (salary levels and competition).

    Invest the saved money from shutting down Glasgow and Edinburgh into the amateur club game to prime the pump of players coming through the system.

    Resurrect the amateur regional teams as an exciting target for the amateurs to aim for (remember the South versus South Africa, etc) but with the twist that they get some money out of it.

    People like John Beattie, Andy Irvine, etc have to stand up as leaders to drive for fundamental change in the scottish rugby union.

    Remove the current SRU management and replace with professionals who have a fresh mandate and are not hampered by amateurs (at least find a CFO who is aware of all of the scottish rugby revenue streams!).

  • Comment number 3.

    Interesting comments guys.
    The problem I have with professional sport is that players receive ridiculous figures, whilst managers who are the ones held responsible win or lose receive a fraction of that. In no other world do employees get paid more than their managers.
    Players (their egos not just their stature) are too big for their clubs. These professional sportsmen need a reality-check (not all professional sportsmen are like this of course, some are very down to Earth of course) and I have much respect for them.

    In the case of rugby I enjoy watching Scotland and if possible watching Glasgow and Edinburgh, the derby 1872 matches should be free entry for all. Get the punters in, kids will want a pie or a burger, parents will pay for a cheeky pint or glass of wine- ca-ching!. Get volunteers in to be stewards, work in the shops, etc. For volunteering they should get to see some of the match (at least half) and give them a ticket to another Edinburgh, Glasgow or a low attendance Scotland match or even the chance to enter a ballot for Scotland v England match.

    But I understand it's hard to encourage support for people that don't live in that area, perhaps they should re-brand them as East and West Scotland. Eventually it would be good to have another team back on the scene, perhaps in the borders, but until I've got a few mill to spare I'll keep quiet on that.

    On a wider note of sport our Sport and PE teachers are still looked down on by most people in Scotland, considered not quite sportsmen and not "real teachers". Obviously I disagree. Having moved to London in 2003 (nothing to do with rugby) and PE teachers in some schools across England have risen to management positions in schools, and whilst it’s still not the majority it’s much more commonplace.
    If someone can manage a team they probably have some good skills for running a business or part of the senior leadership team in a school.
    Granted schools are not mini-businesses, and should not be run as such but should be accountable and success in the place of profit.

    We need to think outside the box really, coaches as well are perhaps a bit too focussed on tactics and complicating matters- one thing I've heard underlined a lot recently from a variety of coaches is that basics are the key. I can see that the more complicated you make a game the more can go wrong, we don't need coaches who know lots about every aspect of the game, we are all learning new things in work, in school and in sport. For rugby focus on passing and catching, continuity and fitness.
    If you can give a solid pass and catch well your confidence will be higher too. Continuity is a wide-term, in this case I mean getting support players there for the offload, but I also disagree with firing one of the pro team head coaches before the end of the season. I'm not surprised becoming a rugby coach in Scottish rugby is undesirable, but I'd like to see some of the past greats get involved with the current set-up like Gregor Townsend and co now are with Scotland.
    It'd be great to see someone like Chris Paterson or Jason White involved with coaching in a few years’ time.
    Oops went on a bit of a tangent there, fitness is key- not that I would suggest us Scots should try to emulate the English, but Clive Woodward said of the 2003 RWC that he wanted to have the fittest team at the world cup.
    To get to the fitness we need to focus more on making sport fun. Personally I enjoyed running about and slamming people into the mud in Scottish winters, and sliding onto the loose ball. But get more kids playing all sports, as Ian McGeechan said in his autobiography, from basketball to bowls. Make it competitive, but make it fun. Develop basic skills and co-ordination, sporting success will come.

  • Comment number 4.

    Plenty of kids are playing mini-rugby in Scotland, doing the simple things well - pass run, tackle. The game is well-organised and structured in Scotland, at least within its "traditional" base, the coaches are generally excellent and the kids enjoy it.


    Q: How much rugby did the kids play during December and January this year?
    A: Virtually none.

    Mini-rugby was all played indoors, if at all, on pitches which are almost totally unsuitable.

    If we have to keep playing in the winter, then we need to get some decent indoor facilities - there are no decent public indoor facilities in Glasgow for example.

    Otherwise we should play in the summer. Summer in the west of Scotland is similar (perhaps a little cooler and wetter) than winter in (say) New South Wales, so we shouldn't have any reason to complain about hard pitches.

    The real problem here is cricket - a game in which as a nation we are even less successful than in rugby. Getting the clubs and (private) schools to offer rugby as an alternative to cricket in the summer would be the key.

    Don't hold your breath...

  • Comment number 5.

    Alabamique. The move to summer rugby would mean a shift away from school rugby and especially from the private schools. Exams and holidays would mean that they would play intermittantly from the beginning of June till early September. It would also means difficulty in organising cup competitions round famiily summer holidays.
    I guess this can be viewed as a problem in the wholesale reorganisation that would be needed. It would also be a huge opportunity to simplify the whole thing with clubs stepping up and taking full responsibilty for bringing on our kids.
    John, are they ready for it?

  • Comment number 6.

    Basic wage with a bonus scheme should have been in affect from day one. Win a game bonus, cap for Scotland bonus, etc.

    4 Pro teams with the Premier 1, 2 and 3 having associations with each pro team.
    Each Pro team has a second team which plays in the Premier leagues or in this British Cup.

    Flatten the Premier /National leagues, introduce more regional/district games even create a league format played over the year.

    5 to 18 youth teams have the same coaches and are run by districts not clubs with the Pro/ Premier /National teams input, so that the youth players get the same coaching from 5 to 18 years old, the Pro/ Premier /National teams can then see all the players at one go and discuss with each player and give them their options. All the coaches are full time and travel to area training i.e. paisley on a Monday, Glasgow on Tuesday, etc. Also this system will help coaching as well. Example when I was a Colt playing for Bearsden I had the opportunity to get District coaching one night, I learned more in an hour and half than I did in from a whole season with the Colts team coach (no offence to the Colts team coach at the time). The 14 to 18 teams come from the Area Coaching zones and play each other in leagues. i.e. Paisley vs West Glasgow, Greenock vs West Dunbartonshire, etc

  • Comment number 7.

    I run all the extra curricular rugby at a rural state school with a role of around 650. We are able to put out four sides (three for boys, one for girls) around 70 pupils take part in training each week. We play, generally mid week fixtures (I can’t get any staff willing to help regullarly at weekends), and probably only around ten games per season for each squad. I can tell you it is a toil!

    I’m lucky my local club has an excellent Development Officer and is assisted by an SVQ, this has freed me up from coaching commitments and allows me to spend more time on the admin side of the running the teams – not exactly my favoured part of the task. The paperwork is considerable, the council insists on Risk Assessments, parental Consents, photographic consent and Head Teacher agreements (three forms) which consider impact on “learning and teaching” for pupils ie can the pupils afford the time out of class or indeed can the teacher afford to be out of class – will their absence have an impact on the teaching of their classes and will their be financial implications (do we need to get a supply teacher in). We receive no financial support from the school and must pay our own way. Travel costs are in the region of £2000 per season and I simply charge the pupils the actual cost. Usually around £5-£10 per away fixture. We have several pupils who cannot afford to attend away games. Obviously we attempt to generate a bit cash, I sell some T-Shirts and Tops and we have talked the odd business into throwing a bit sponsorship our way but my wife will divorce me if I do anymore!

    As far as curriculum time goes, as a school we don’t manage the two hours of “core” PE per week for most pupils. Each period in the school lasts 50 or 55 and pupils get two periods per week. On the bright side with the introduction of the curriculum for excellence and the new “nationals”, pupils should get three periods of PE per week but periods are being reduced in length by 5 minutes to try squeeze more in. The reality is that a 45 minute period of PE is at best 30 minutes of “running” around so although on the paper we’ll meet the two hours of PE, the reality will be more like an hour and a half.

    I don’t think my tale is untypical of what it takes to run rugby, or any sport, in a school out with the private sector. The obstacles are considerable.

    Finally, I’m all for summer rugby and moving the clocks to give more light after school. I think that that alone could improve uptake. Exams effect less than half the school population, when exam leave is on there tends to be a bit more slack in the system to do sport, especially durining the school day.

  • Comment number 8.

    Firstly I'd introduce touch rugby to schools by getting the local clubs in and getting the weans playing it. SRU to provide bibs and mini sized balls. Local clubs to have someone at the school last thing on a Friday to take them. We can't leave it to the government or teachers as their track records are pathetic.

    Next I'd get the local clubs playing touch every mid-week night 18:30 - 19:30 (Drive past a five-a-sides pitch at this time and it's mobbed). All age groups should be catered for so when the minis are playing then the dads, or indeed mums, can have a run around in the senior game on the other half of the paddock. Barring the first two sessions every player would need to become a club member but that would be the only cost over the entire year. Most clubs have the infrastructure already in place: Lights, bibs and balls. Clubs will see their memberships increase which is always a good thing and normal training would take place after this. You'd get the current playing squads coming down early for the run around before training then before long you'd see the 'touch' players wanting to hang around and get a taste for the real thing. Job done.

  • Comment number 9.

    Rugby is a very physical game and you need tough and physical players.

    I'm originally from South Africa and now living in Scotland 10 years. I was not a fantastic player of rugby but I enjoyed a good game with friends and loved watching the sport followed by a "lekker Braai" (BBQ) and a beer.

    I must say that in those countries, South Africa, New Zealand and others in the southern hemisphere, they treat the sport almost as religion .. it's just they way the people live..the harsh and unforgiving country, the heat ...all influence the way we played rugby. Coming here to this country was very different. In this country everything is given to if you have no work, free health..children are spoiled with food and money from their parents. You can see this out on our streets. In the town I live in, children can leave school for lunch and buy lunch at Greggs or chippies. Everyone has an Xbox....soo why do they need to go out and rough in the dirt?

    The level of health and safety here can be ridiculous. I clearly remember in my younger days at school, all we had was a dried up field and a tap of water. That was it! No teachers watching over if we fell special shoes or rugby we played every break or chance we got and in our school uniforms. We took our shoes and socks off for speed and we played like this in all weather 30 celcius and more. Yes we cut ourselves and knocked each others teeth out but we never broke any bones because we were tough with the level of our fitness that came naturally with fantastic fun and the the use of what we had around us.

    Scotland is a beautiful and fantastic rugged county to play good rugby..I think in my opinion you need to get down to the raw basics..get off the lovely soft green pitches..go out into the heat of the day.. just right down to earth and play in the dirt. Take off your shoes and hit your opposing team as hard as you can. It's a very psychological game as well. If you can dominate the game with sheer physical strength then you have a good chance of winning games. Only after do you start to bring in technical stuff.

    You don't need money and fantastic facilities to make great need to change the way you think about rugby..introduce new sports into schools instead of just club teams and make it known and open to anyone. Rugby can be played is some advise for the coaches...take your team out onto a beach and play in the sand ( very difficult to run in sand)..take them out into the middle of the highlands and let them train on hills or rough terrain.. just push them to extreme limits. It's all down to hard work and having a great time together as a team.


  • Comment number 10.

    Broon (Irvine legend) - is that you?

  • Comment number 11.

    Fact of the matter is, Scotland is a very boozy nation with a huge drinking culture at Student level. I was mad on rugby at School, then I went to University and didn't wear my boots again. Call it lazy, feeble, or whatever you like, but I put it down to the party culture at University. Friday night at every student union is a big one, and the last thing you want to do is play a hard physicla game with a hangover. I think Scottish rugby loses so many potentially awesome players right after school and I'd say a lot of it is to do with drink and drugs.

  • Comment number 12.

    As I live wa-a-y out west (but my roots are in Hawick) maybe I should be careful in my comments but thanks to the www., and now BBC America, I can still follow club and six-nations rugby which to me, is without peer as a spectator sport and a damn good child-and-teenage warrior game and equalizer to get both the bully and the passive out of youngsters. A college bro' and sculptor still living in Scotland, who has actually made a living at it without descending into teaching tells me that "Political correctness" and Uber-ommercialism are ruining creativity in Scotland. Could it be that the same can be said for Rugby? I've seen some good comments, especially "Bigyinrugby" and the South African gent "JohnG", who point to spoiling kids early and a sedentary lifestyle as not helping. As for touch rugby, -humbug! Early full contact is the essence of rugby and sorts out the ones who really want to go on. I played my first game at the tender age of nine whilst still in primary school in Hawick (Even scored the first and only try of the game and have never forgotten the thrill!) and went on to be blessed by having the incomparable Bill McClaren (who had a very holistic view of the game) as P.E. teacher, had my own ball and boots and NEVER shied away from contact. The Scottish Borders always had to contend with the "Good old boy" net and just HAD to be that bit better. I still remember many city teams in the 70's when Hawick practically owned the national championship muttering "beaten again by these bloody farmers!". From this great distance, I see the financial factor with it's corporate logos and external demands on the players and coaches, killing the free-flow and creativity of the game at the national AND club levels which I remember from the great players of my era like the J.PR.'s, Jim Renwicks, Andy Irvines, Gareth Edwards, Willie John McB's, (too many to list) disappearing in favor of what I can only describe as "Blocky" tactics (Ireland abandoned this in that last, great game against the Sassenachs this year) and, in my 'umble opinion, was what lost us that game against Wales which was a disgrace! I know that this is a bit of a ramble but it's a bit embarrassing to watch the Six-Nations with friends I'm introducing into rugby in the USA, trying to explain Scotland's consistent failure to deliver in the professional era. I wonder if the SRU is just flailing about with the financial pressures to just "keep in touch" and needs a bit of creativity -thinking outside the box they are obviously trapped in- to start 'em young, keep 'em fit and YES, play in the summer months. This might even help the Scottish national team to be a bit sharper out of the gate in the six-nations (when did they last win a first game of the series?). Hope this helps in a small way from afar.

  • Comment number 13.

    John wrote: "What would you do to make Scottish rugby succeed?"

    After replacing the current CEO with somebody who has a vision and determination to see the game succeed in Scotland, and hiring a suitably qualified and motivated head of sales and marketing, the following would go some way to getting things back on track.

    1. Restructure the youth system so that it is inclusive rather than exclusive. That means helping clubs and schools to put in systems that work for them where they don't already exist, perhaps having clubs partnering with schools to deliver the youth training and playing.

    2. Restructure the leagues so that lower league teams have fewer far away games and more local derbies. A regional structure would also make it quicker (but not necessarily easier) to climb to the top.

    3. Give our top performing teams every opportunity to go further in cross border competitions - even backing any future bid to join the Celtic league.

    4. Structure the current pro teams properly with a second XV and an age grade set-up to give our younger rising stars the opportunity to be tested at the highest level more often.

    5. Put in place a realistic development plan that has achievable targets, e.g. suitable stadium for Edinburgh in x years, all P1/2 clubs to have minimum facilities by 20xx, etc.

    6. Work with the fans and supporters to meet their needs when it comes to rugby, e.g. Pro team Supporters Clubs having a place on the executive committee of the pro teams and SRU plc.

    7. Reward performing clubs at all levels, e.g. Orkney RFC for their community and youth efforts over the last few years.

    I am sure that I have a few other ideas but no the time to write them down right now. However, the biggest thing that all of this needs is the effort of those involved to make it happen.

  • Comment number 14.

    Reiverpacific....did you go to Drumlanrig primary?

  • Comment number 15.


    There are two separate issues here - rugby/sport in general and the pro game. The gap between the pro team and everything else is now huge and there is very little relationship between the two.

    Pro game - in Scotland we operate from a very small playing base and in my view we tend to focus on a small squad of elite players too early and at too young an age. Consequence is we depend on a very small number of youngsters from age 15 onwards and ignore many late developers or newcomers to the game. The rest - the vast bulk of players get ignored by the SRU if they don't make the cut - a disgrace! And yes they all tend to come from a very small number of elite fee paying schools or a scattering of clubs. However many of these guys give up as other things in life become more important ie studies, girls, etc! consequence is that the conveyor belt generates very small numbers of pro players - we then have to look south or abroad. A good example of this is how few options we have developed for stand off position over the last 10 years in the pro game! The other concern I have is that we tend to coach innovation out of the boys who I know are coached to play through the phases to such an extent that if they fail to 'follow orders' or try something different they are video analysed to death and 'told off'! As a result many become disillusioned with the game and stop enjoying it! Couple that with being stuck in the gym and getting little game time at an age when they are dying to play and batter some opponents then it is little wonder that the attrition rate is so high!

    Rugby in general - It is a national disgrace that we cannot get more sport into the school curriculum. As other posters have said it requires a major cultural shift and moving rugby to the summer is a good option! The private schools - and my son is at one of them - are stuck in the dark ages and need to be forced into modernising the game. Summer games, joint school/club leagues, less focus on the cup games, etc are all required. I have also complained before about the lack of involvement of our current pro players in the wider rugby community - as well as having results based salary structures I would also require them to do x hours of community coaching as well. Rugby, or any other physical sport, is essential to a childs health and education and we need to support schools and clubs in this before this generation think the Wii is an olympic event!

  • Comment number 16.

    First things first, McKie and Hegarty need to go. This pair of accountants should be thanked for stabilising the SRU Finances but now it's time to show them the door as they are damaging the game now.

    (with apologies to Oscar Wilde) To lose one Pro Team CEO, Mr McKie, may be regarded as a misfortune but to lose both looks like carelessness.

    Not sure what losing 3 in quick succession is!

  • Comment number 17.

    Wasn't it great when players played for the jersey and not the cash?
    The money takes away the passion.

  • Comment number 18.

    DpEdin your comments in 15 are very true. Rugby is renowed for being a "late developer" sport. Players can pick up the game post school and still occasionally make the grade but the SRU puts no system in place to try pick up these players. Your correct about boys being discarded by the system if they have not made the grade by age 15 its all wrong....

    The pathways system is there to try develop players but all it does is disgard players until the chosen few are left.

    Glad you agree on the summer rugby option. The younger kids get nothing out of playing in freezing conditions, where they are so cold they can't catch the ball! Let the pros play through the winter but the kids should be playing at a time when the weather is appropriate to develop basic skills.

  • Comment number 19.

    Public perception is a critical problem. The broadsheets give balanced coverage of most sports yet in the tabloids it's football, football, football. I read the Sunday Mail for the first time in years on Sunday. There were some 20 pages of football coverage yet the only rugby coverage was a two inch column on the outcome of the previous night's Glasgow game.

    What that signals to me is that the Sunday Mail do not see their reader demographic as having any interest whatsoever in rugby. If we are to tackle the perception of a "toff's game", we need this area of the media to be on board.

    On the point about Summer rugby, as a mini-coach, I have seen countless kids give up because of freezing cold conditions. I would much prefer to start the season a bit earlier, take two months out in Dec/Jan and restart with an end June finish. Not only would it encourage greater participation and provide better conditions for skill-building but, I suspect would also result in less fixture cancellation, greater attendance at matches and allow a recovery period for injuries. Friday night in December at Murrayfield is no fun whatsoever.

    Professional teams, player wages etc. are all red-herrings. What we need is greater levels of participation that are fostered by conditions that kids want to play in, a media that projects to all kids the values of the game and schools that support physical recreation. Oh, and while we are at it, more parents to realise that communities only flourish when we all play some part in it - don't leave it all to others, whatever the activity.

  • Comment number 20.

    One comment I have noticed in this thread that I agree with is the need for a third PRO team.

    We cannot wait to start developing players such as Rob Harley at Glasgow simply because Saracens have poached away Kelly Brown.

    Players such as this need to be out playing in pressure situations and competing against internationals week in week out as soon as possible.

    Case in point the Wallabies and the constant line on talent they are currently bringing in for example James O'Connor "If their good enough their old enough".

    Competition for places and continually being pushed for your shirt is the key, unlike currently where we panic as soon as a 10 or midfield back gets injured.

    If a All Black 12 or 13 got injured there would be 4-5 players ready to step up and take there chance with no really worry, not so in Scotland.

  • Comment number 21.

    Another bugbear of mine and one that I think limits the Scottish game is the loss of players once the leave school. There does not appear to be any 'transitiion' process for 16 to 18 year olds once they move on from a school team. Many will move on to work, University or College and lose touch with rugby. Sure some will play at Uni but it seems to me that the vast majority end up out of the game. some will play for a local club but not all are physically ready for that step up. Two things come to mind:

    - the creation of an u20 set up has been discussed before on this site - surely we need something between school and senior rugby. Perhaps we could create a set up by selecting key clubs across the country and funding them to have an u20 team?
    - surely the SRU can do more to attract this age group back to rugby to keep them involved - they must have their names and addresses via registration forms. The SRU could run some sort of 'dating' exercise to match up players if they move to Uni/college with local clubs and get them involved with an u20 set up. You could throw in free tickets to pro matches, pro player coaching sessions, etc to keep them involved.

    The SRU seem to have done well at the mini and midi levels and this needs to continue but do they now need to focus on the 16 - 20 year olds?

  • Comment number 22.

    The 3 days following this blog have produced 21 comments.
    3 days following previous blog on national team produced 110 comments.
    Not a lot of interest in proteams.

  • Comment number 23.

    Donald Peddie @ 22: I think that you have misunderstood the questions as they are not only about the pro teams but the whole of Scottish rugby.

    A reminder about the questions:

    What would you do to make Scottish rugby succeed?


    What would you do to make Scotland a better rugby nation?

    For those that think the underlying rugby infrastructure from pro teams to the lowest league clubs' minis are not important then you are not really paying attention because it all contributes, one way or another, to the success or otherwise of our national team, about which, as Donald says, you all seem very passionate.

  • Comment number 24.

    Was it Bill Clinton who ran for president with the slogan 'it's the economy, stupid'.
    Pro rugby is all about the money. If Edinburgh and Glasgow are to be our professional teams then they have to attract big enough crowds to give them some measure of independence from SRU. Otherwise they will continue as development teams whose only real function is to allow youngsters like Vernon and Mackenzie to sell themselves to the professional game.
    Dumping the SRU pro teams and allowing clubs to try to attract the sponsorship to try to compete in Europe would be an attractive idea, if only because we would then have professional teams independent of Murrayfield.
    I spend too much money with the SRU. Internatioal tickets, season tickets and junk (sorry SRU shop) and I am rewarded with some decent rugby. For passion and comittment and love of the game I go to Station Park on Saturday and Sunday mornings and watch my son playing U16. The only real importance of the national set up is to attract kids into the game.

  • Comment number 25.

    I see that my first idea from my post @13 is being put into practice.

    Next up, restructuring the leagues. Looking forward to the SRU AGM.

    Dummping the pro teams would lose us all that ERC, ML and TV money with nothing to replace it. Major step backwards and from which we may never recover, at least not in my lifetime. You just need to see the new U18 setup to see where we are likely to be in the not too distant future if the pro teams go - and I look forward to welcoming you all down in the lower end of the IRB rankings.

  • Comment number 26.

    John Beattie. Do you honestly believe Gordon Mckie and his team are actually doing anything constructive with the 72 so called rugby development officers spread through out Scotland? I'll say it again "72" ! Nearly 600 hours a week spent coaching youth rugby in Scotland at a cost of £1.5m +. There are far too many people sucking money out of grass roots rugby e.g. The mass "Ticking of boxes" on the volumes of children passing through the development officers hands. I coached 106 children today in (well known Scottish town) in 1 and half hours! (The words of a development officer not mine). To me that's ticking a box! What do you think John?

  • Comment number 27.

    "With Scottish rugby boasting under 40,000 players as opposed to England's 2,000,000, Ireland's 153,000, France's 300,000 , and Italy's 66,000 then, on the face of it, finishing above Italy should be the realistic target.

    Welsh rugby, surprisingly, has just 50,000 or so players."


    So England should win the Grand Slam every year.
    Surprisingly NZ is world N°1 with around 150,000 registered...

    I think it would be a big mistake to get rid off the 2 pro teams in Scotland.
    With no players exposed to a decent level, they could not even play abroad.

  • Comment number 28.

    1. Firstly, we need to make better use of Murrayfield. It should NEVER have an empty seat for an international. You want to avoid the "Hampden Squeal" of the 90's, so this can't just be handing tickets out to schools. Outwith the big games, we should look at heavier discounts of concessions. Scotland seem to play better when there is a big crowd to back them, and a few beered up students wouldn't do much harm to the occasionally church like atmosphere.

    2. I would pay £180 for an Edinburgh season ticket to see matches in a full house with a decent atmosphere, but the poor attendance at Edinburgh games puts me off. These matches either need to shift to a ground that can be filled, or the pricing strategy needs adjusted to fill Murrayfield up a bit more.
    At £30-50 for a season people will worry less about missing the odd match, but you'll build up a much larger pool of support.

    3. Summer rugby for kids/7's/Touch etc. Not a bad idea if you can get round the logistics. The one thing about this is that it is suited to the more mobile players. How are we going to develop the front row of 20 years time if the focus is on this? I don't have an answer, short of setting matches based on 50/100m times so that players are all of a similar pace. That means that rugby remains a game for all sizes, but kids can focus on the core skills of passing and finding gaps.

    4. We should make more of the IRB 7's at Murrayfield. An opportunity to turn up and not worry about your pint freezing, and a faster, simpler and more exciting viewing proposition for casual fans. We should look outwith rugby's "core market" of blokes that once played. Sell it as a more general day out, get more women along. Get some Scottish produce in for the BBQs, a spot of tablet for the kids, some Scottish brewers for the dads to enjoy. This is absolutely a missed opportunity in my book. It's got so much to appeal to people that weren't into rugby and get them to grow to love it. If people enjoy themselves at the home of the game they'll come back!

  • Comment number 29.

    What Tom English said on yesterday's SportNation programme about Scottish Rugby was correct, the middle tier of rugby needs to improve, like the Irish middle tier has Munster, Ulster and Leinster and IMO the tale is wagging the dog in the SRU. People are watching the Irish Pro Teams because they are winning and winning well.....

  • Comment number 30.

    Why should sports be assigned to an after school activity? As an expat, I'm not familiar with Scottish schooling system, but having been educated in the Lake district, we alternated our games time and afternoon lessons as the clocks went forward and back. As it happens, I think cold, wet and muddy are just the conditions to enhance handling. If you learn catch a wet ball when you can't feel your hands then you're at an advantage to those that play on firm ground with a clean dry ball.

  • Comment number 31.

    "30. At 16:38pm on 6th Apr 2011, Jamie wrote:
    Why should sports be assigned to an after school activity? As an expat, I'm not familiar with Scottish schooling system, but having been educated in the Lake district, we alternated our games time and afternoon lessons as the clocks went forward and back."

    Jamie there is currently no flexibility within the state sector to have as much as games afternoon let alone alternate lessons to suit the clocks - it would be nice if there was.

    "30. At 16:38pm on 6th Apr 2011, Jamie wrote:
    As it happens, I think cold, wet and muddy are just the conditions to enhance handling. If you learn catch a wet ball when you can't feel your hands then you're at an advantage to those that play on firm ground with a clean dry ball."

    Spoken like a true English forward. It's not my experiance though - This January I spent the best part of a Sunday afternoon shoveling hot chocolates into a group of female teenage rugby players in an attempt prevent hypothermia. Some of them were so cold they were in tears and didn't actually play any rugby. No chance of them improving any skills that day.

  • Comment number 32.


    From a very good source Mckie and 2 or 3 others may go ??? Any truth ?

  • Comment number 33.


    Touch rugby in Schools. Regardless of weather.

    If anyne is reluctant to incorporate rugby in teh national curriculum then Touch is the obvious alternative. there is argueably less risk of injury than in footbal.

    Also, th eone thing we always complain about in Scottish Rugby is the low level of handling skills. Watching a couple of the games this year (Wales and Ireland) I was howling in anguish at the passing and catching. Truely awful at times. Touch would also improve this by focussing on the handling/running side of things rather than ourtraditional 'contact' approach.

    the barriers to this are the SRU (stuck in the '70's) and teh Civil Servant/Education system (scared to do anything!).

    If we don't increase teh numbers of players, at ll levels, in Scotland we will drop down the rankings dramatically over the next couple of decades. America, Japan, Italy, Canada...all will pass us.

  • Comment number 34.


    Ahhh!!!! You're having a laugh, better handing skills when the ball is wet. You learn nothing when you drop the ball.


    I am not a teacher, but know quite a few and they all say the same!!! The paper work they are hit with is unreal. To take a class out on a day trip, is two days of filling out H&S forms, consent forms, etc The Teachers want to do, it's the system that is killing them.

    SRU (stuck in the '70's) !!!! is that 1870's or 1970's? LOL either would be true.

    Scotland is already dropping down the rankings, not will.

  • Comment number 35.

    #32 If we shout it loud enough it may become true. Here's hoping.

  • Comment number 36.

    #32 - here's hoping it's true ;)

  • Comment number 37.

    John Wrote "frankly, civil servants don't give a monkey's about sporting targets."

    I am not a civil servant, but that comment is not true and is quite demeaning. I know that there is a very dedicated section of Civil Servants within the Scottish Government who are doing all they can to promote all sport within Scotland.

  • Comment number 38.

    #34 Handling in teh wet? Don't see why not Alex...good enough for the Kiwis! they train in teh wet or dry and their climate, while not quite as wet as ours is pretty rubbish. I agree to an extent though...more to be learned in the dry as easier to string things together. However, that shouldn't stop play in the wet....this is Scotland!

    Basically...need more kids playing, and School is teh obvious place.

  • Comment number 39.

    Totally right about the basic pay being too high and not bonus-led enough. One successful team (footie's Dundee United in the '80s) relied on bonuses to motivate the players. Low basic wage, reasonable appearance money (so you had to train well to get in the side) and very good win bonuses. In our S1 rugby team (Linlithgow Academy) one lad get a fiver from his dad for every try. Guess who's one of the team's top try scorers?
    More money at secondary school level for performance coaches going out to schools and clubs would be ideal. More emphasis on state schools would help too. It's obviously not just population that's important, or even just playing numbers. You just need to get enough lads passionate about rugby like they have for footie. But remember we're not that great at footie now either...

  • Comment number 40.

    Also, the SRU should get it's IT act together. The Facebook/Twitter point is clear, but even something as basic as the web site. It's not good. I went to look for any details about the youth pathways programme. I stopped after ten minutes and guess there's nothing much there... Poor in this day and age when you want web-literate youngsters to get enthused.

  • Comment number 41.

    #37 So why is there no Rugby/Touch Rugby in the vast majority of schools? Here is a sport that we are actually good at...and we're letting it go to waste through apathy.

  • Comment number 42.

    Personally, I think Scottish rugby has huge hurdles to climb given that Rugby lags quite a way behind soccer in popularity and (dare I say it) even Cricket !!

    The major problem that many countries have (even England) is the runaway success of the nimby soccer game. Soccer is just so well marketed worldwide, but in particular in the UK. It's really hard for any other sport to compete with it.

    Whilst England may have a huge player base compared to most, it is no coincidence that the most consistently successful team on the World stage is New Zealand. The simple reason being that Rugby is almost a religion in that country and has no real competitors for that title within the borders of NZ.

    I know for a fact that rugby numbers amongst the youngsters is diminishing fast in Wales - which will surprise most people who would consider Wales a rugby bastion. However, it is true. Swansea City can get regular crowds of 15000-18000 for most of their championship games - which is a higher number than the Ospreys and Scarlets get if you COMBINE their crowds. Goodness knows what will happen should the Swans actually make it into the Premiership.

    If that happens in Wales (where we only really have two truly professional soccer teams), then I would imagine that is dwarfed by the situation in Scotland where you have a whole Scottish Premiership that regularly has large crowds.

    I genuinely think that rugby is struggling and will continue to struggle in all the UK countries for the forseeable future, until somone comes up with a genius plan to counter the 'glamour' of soccer that the Socer Authorities as a whole are so good at marketing (God knows why though as I find Soccer about as exciting to watch as paint drying !!)

    The problem is that the 'plan' would have to be truly outstanding to overturn the advantage that soccer already enjoys.

    How do you make Scottish rugby succeed ? How do we make any rugby in the UK succeed ?

    Rather tongue-in-cheek, I do always remember the quote by General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett in one episode of BlackAdder Goes Forth;

    "Darling, make a note of that. Machine guns for Full-Backs !!"

    Sorry, but your question as to how to make rugby succeed immediately brought that scene from BlackAdder into my mind ;)

  • Comment number 43.

    #38 I think you'll find New Zealand is a wet and warmer country than Scotland, You stand out in the rain in New Zealand you get wet, do it in Scotland and you freeze.

  • Comment number 44.

    Whilst there are no doubt many short terms actions that can produce some improvement I think your very first point lies at the heart of solving the issue - unable to run. I have been fortunate to spend the last few years living in Australia after growing up and playing rugby in Scotland. I have no doubt that the single biggest difference in the players over here is the ability to run properly. This is not a result of the much fabled climate debate, hard grounds, sunshine etc, etc... They learn (are taught) to run properly. We forever hear these tales of the southern hemisphere players being faster in the backs, having more dynamic ball carrying forwards and being more effective the tackle and clean out phases - this all stems from being able to run properly, correct explosive, sprinting technique.
    As you have quite clearly indicated the solution to your posed question doesn't lie within Scottish rugby alone, it lies in the systems we have for delivering education in basic athletic technique. My personal view is that Australia is in no way more advanced in the delivery of its rugby education than Scotland it just gets better athletes to teach.

  • Comment number 45.

    I live in Brampton, Toronto and recently visited the Cassie Campbell Community Centre, named after the local captain of the female Canadian ice hockey teams that won Winter Olympic gold medals in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Turin in 2006.

    Indoors there are 2 swimming pools, an ice rink with spectator seating, a basketball court, and a gym so big there is a running track around all the weights, running and cycling machines. Outside are football pitches, a cricket field, tennis courts and parking for 600 cars, all in one big property the size of an average school. It is state of the art, brand new and breathtaking.

    And there are 6 more just like it, in a population centre the same size as Edinburgh.

    It cost $44million to make, and even with the brutal current exchange rate, this is only £30million, [usually £22million]. These community centres are paid for by the council and the education board, and public use in the evenings subsidises school use in the day.

    Instead of the defective Edinburgh tram system designed to replace the number 22 bus and currently costed at £714 million, we could have 28 of these centres up and down the country and the change could take the SRU out of debt.

    Complexes all over Scotland, each hubs of the community, named after Scottish sporting heroes, each housing countless local sporting teams of their own.

    The Chris Hoy centre: All of the above plus a velodrome.

    The Andy Murray Centre: All of the above with more empathis on tennis, different surfaces and indoor courts.

    Both could be national centres for their respective disciplines.

    But for £714million, we’re getting trams instead of buses. This defies common sense in so many ways it is bewildering that noone has pulled the plug yet.


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