GLASGOW HAWKS president Kenny Hamilton has issued a withering assessment of the SRU’s handling of the Keith Russell affair. Writing in yesterday’s programme notes ahead of his team’s Tennent’s Premiership clash against Watsonians, the long-serving and highly-respected club official questioned the current regime’s ability to create the “right culture of confidence through transparency”.
Referencing the joint statement issued on behalf of the SRU Board and Council on 21st September, which provided only very vague details of the outcomes of their externally-assisted internal review into the issues raised by Russell’s unfair dismissal, Hamilton wrote –
It seems that Scottish Rugby cannot get its house in order as we continue with the fall-out from the unfair dismissal of former Director of Domestic Rugby Keith Russell.
It seems to be very unfortunate that the default position of Scottish Rugby is ‘confidentiality’ and ‘protection of the organisation’ rather than openness and transparency. So, we are to have another review of ‘Governance’ as a follow up to the report produced in 2005 by our own Billy Dunlop.
My University Professor, Lewis Gunn, was outstanding on the understanding of governance and would point to the three elements – structure, process and people.
Structure and process are important but if you don’t have the right people creating the right culture of confidence through transparency, the other two are a side show.
Hawks were a shock omission when the successful applicants for the Super 6 league (which is being installed to sit at the top of the domestic game from the start of next season) were announced at the start of May, meaning that Scotland’s biggest city will not be represented in the new competition.
Hamilton voiced his exasperation with the decision at the time, stating that –
It is insulting to the people of Glasgow and a slight on club rugby in the city. Ambitious players in Scotland’s biggest city will now feel obliged to jump on a train to Edinburgh to give themselves a chance of realising their dream of playing professionally. I can’t see how that’s good for the development of the game.
Having made his point, Hamilton thereafter kept his powder dry on the on-going controversies surrounding the SRU’s Super 6/Agenda 3 initiative, but broke his silence yesterday to voice his dissatisfaction with the separate but related issue of the way the Russell enquiry has been handled.
In yesterday’s match, Hawks battled back from 0-45 down to salvage a bonus point against Watsonians. The final score was 24-50.
Afterwards, Fin Gillies, the Hawks coach, addressed the prospect of relegation being re-introduced to the league despite the SRU’s Super 6 ‘Franchise Information’ pack, which was issued last November, stating emphatically that demotion was not going to be on the agenda this season. [Click here to read Glasgow Hawks v Watsonians match report and Gillies’ comments]
Timeline of confusion: Why do clubs in the top two divisions not know where they are playing next season?
- 5th August 2017 – SRU CEO Mark Dodson unveils a broad outline for his Super 6 initiative at the governing body’s AGM, stating that the 2nd XV teams from franchised clubs will play in National One of the new domestic league structure when it kicks-off at the start of the 2019-20 season, but can be promoted into the [top flight] Championship from the end of that season onwards. Dodson said at the time –
It will allow players to cascade down the system to the most appropriate feeder club, creating a true player pathway for talent. And if we didn’t impose this you would find that all the ‘Super Six’ teams would fill all the top levels of the Championship through the warehousing of players. It would be impossible for us to manage that.
- 21st November 2017 – SRU issue their Super 6 ‘Franchise Information’ pack, which states that in the case of “a one club Super 6 franchise where the club finishes in the Top 12 in 18/19 [which all Super 6 clubs will do this year]” then “the senior amateur team will be positioned in the National League for 19/20”.
- 1st May 2018 – The successful Super 6 applicants are announced: Ayr, Boroughmuir, Heriot’s, Melrose, Stirling County and Watsonians
- 8th May 2018 – A meeting of the National League One forum is presented with a paper written by Gordon Thomson of Aberdeen Grammar, which states that –
The draw on players is an unintended consequence of Super 6 and the creation of this new competition may well be successful, but it must be considered in tandem with the creation of a fair and competitive Championship and National League competition for the remainder of the clubs.
There is no doubt that the enhanced SRU financial, analytical and coaching support, and possible TV coverage/money will improve standards at Super 6 level. This must not be allowed to impact on a fair and competitive amateur competition beneath this stratum.
Careful consideration should be given to where the amateur sides attached to the Super 6 franchises should be placed to ensure club rugby in Scotland is not choked by the top six sides in amateur rugby being the second-string teams of the Super 6.”
If this is not prevented there is a danger of the Super 6 teams being a warehouse system attracting players into their amateur sides to benefit from the enhanced facilities, coaching and potential payment if they make the Super 6 squad the following season. These players would be better remaining at their own clubs and only moving across if selected to be Super 6 players the following season.
- Thomson suggests a three point solution to the concerns he has highlighted –
A) For a period of three to five years (and thereafter reviewed) no club being a Super 6 franchise can have a side in the Championship.
B) All six Super 6 franchise clubs should be placed in National Three at the start of Season 2019-20 and be permitted to compete for promotion to National Two and One as normal. No progress to the Championship being possible until a review is undertaken at the end of the moratorium.
[Thomson pointed out that there is precedent for this as Aberdeen Grammar’s 2nd XV currently play in a league (Caledonia North Two) where they are prohibited from being promoted]
C) All Super 6 club amateur sides would be eligible for the relevant Cup competitions.
- After a ‘healthy’ debate on the issues raised in the paper, it is agreed that each National One club should feedback to Thomson with a view to proposing a motion at the SRU AGM.
- 4th August 2018 – two motions are passed with unanimous support at the SRU AGM. The first – proposed by Aberdeen Grammar and seconded by Marr – calls for a full debate (including a survey issued to all clubs) on three key issues relating to Agenda 3: the placement of Super 6 ‘amateur teams’; the definition of ‘amateur’ in Scottish rugby’s domestic leagues; and the best way forward regarding league/season structure. The second motion – proposed by Haddington and seconded by GHA – seeks to enshrine in the bye-laws the right of member clubs to determine the format of national club competitions, following prior consultation with and subsequent approval from the clubs at an AGM or SGM.” A debate at the AGM lays bare the lack of consensus on the issue of where ‘club XVs’ of Super 6 franchises should fit into the league structure.
- 28th August 2018 – Derek O’Riordan, head coach of Edinburgh Academicals, explains in an interview with The Offside Line that –
To my mind, the Premiership [this season] is a nonentity for us, because Super 6 looms around the corner. For me, this season is about building a squad and a system that will enable us to win the Championship in its first year.
- 1st September 2018 – club season kicks off
- 29th September 2018 – a survey to canvas the views of Scotland’s clubs on the best league format from next year [2018-19] onwards is circulated via email by Graham Ireland (the SRU’s Head of Regulation) on behalf of Gavin MacColl QC (the Independent Chair of the Scottish Rugby Council Standing Committee on Governance). The cover note from Ireland states that –
“Super 6 teams will play in their own, discrete competition (with no promotion or relegation). By itself, the creation and existence of the Super 6 competition does not cause any alteration to the existing league structures. Unless specific changes are made, those clubs playing within the current league structure (including Super 6 franchise holders) will continue to do so, with promotion and relegation applying according to existing competition rules.”