“I Have A Dream…”

There is a fine line between realism and negativity. I know this myself, having been described as a wee bit *just a wee bit* negative.

In Scottish rugby we are often accused of dwelling on the negatives. Results, finances and the press almost ensure this. The outlook is usually grey.

The alternative, though, is to be optimistic. The fine line here is that you can spill over into flights of fancy. Think big. So for once I’m gonna dare to dream. What could be the best possible outcome?

The reality I’m seeking to avoid is that contracted players are tumbling out of Scotland and there seems to be scant word of replacements. Youngsters are looking to flee these shores in numbers, and the route to full time careers is a bottlenecked one in Scotland.

John Beattie recently blogged that he thought a salary cap would keep established pros hungry and free up funds for talented kids. Again the reality is scary: internationals are more financially driven and expectant of ‘status’ (i.e. the ‘high-earner’ tag) since rugby became a job. Beattie’s principles are laudable, if not rather naive.

A salary cap would drive out more internationals than it would keep, and a pro team full of kids could not compete.

Or could it?

Even though they won’t admit it the Dragons and Connacht had been set up by the WRFU and IRFU, respectively, to be development sides. They’ve improved a lot. Why couldn’t Scotland do the same?

I once suggested that there should be a team of apprentices and young aspiring pros forming a team in Prem 1 that plays B&I Cup and cannot ever be relegated. But now that I’ve decided to dream bigger let’s say that a pro equivalent is being created in the ML…

Really we need a Whyte Knight.

39 year old Craig Whyte, allegedly worth £1 billion, has just bought over Rangers Football Club. Consortiums pop up all over Britain bidding to buy football teams, it seems. Could young Billionaires (or Millionaires, I’m not picky!) ever be persuaded to invest in Scottish rugby? If they did they would need guarantees.

A new team would have to be created. Funding, sponsorship, team selection, ticketing, management strategies, interaction with the public and the selling of their own brand would have to be controlled in-house. No SRU involvement, bar the use of players for camps, advertising the Thistle and international squads. We don’t need to be reminded of the fiasco when the Caruthers brothers took over Edinburgh.

In my dream world this happens: They have a nice place to play in central Scotland, maybe Perth, or in the Borders (would there be enough support?!). The fans get behind a plucky young brand they can identify with and the use of young talent is the driving force. They can’t get relegated from the ML because there isn’t another league. SRU vault managers don’t have to count out cash, because this team would be self sufficient. In short, I want a miracle.

Then Reality brings me crashing back to Earth. A few days ago Graham Shiel gave our Sevens side the dreaded ‘vote of confidence’ for the future. Will the SRU say that £200,000 (the assumed price of the Sevens) be better spent in pro rugby? Will the Club International also become defunct? Maybe we could scrap age-grade internationals, too…

Oh well. I’ll stay optimistic. I’m looking forward to the RWC. I bet you are, too.
*DO ANY OF YOU HAVE A SPARE BILLION POUNDS?!*

Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.