Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Should the Pro Teams become Nomadic – like some of their fans?

Chris Cusiter at Scotstoun Stadium

Should the two remaining Scottish Pro teams take a leaf out of Saracens book and take their current pre-season plans further? Should they play a number of their RaboDirect Pro 12 and Heineken Cup home games on the road to reward their fans that aren’t based in the Central Belt? Would it work or would it disenfranchise their season ticket holders?

Let me go back a step to last season when I got into a conversation on Twitter about how successful a Pro Team would be in Aberdeen, about the same time as the Tonga match at Pittodrie.  The general consensus seemed that it could work but that cost of set up and a venue would more than likely make it impractical.  Time passed and I sort of forgot this conversation or at least it was pushed to the back of my mind.

However the spark of the idea has been re-ignited by Glasgow Warriors training and partaking in a practice match against Aberdeen Grammar Rugby at Rubislaw in Aberdeen and Edinburgh playing their pre-season match against Newcastle in the Borders.  But now the germ of the idea had morphed slightly: how practical would it be for the Pro sides to play their league and European games on the road in Scotland? So this raises a number of questions and I will use Glasgow Warriors as the benchmark, as they are travelling far further.

In the case of most things now it all comes down to numbers. How much will this visit cost both clubs? Will there be capacity problems? How many Grammar fans will turn out? How many fans from Glasgow will travel north? How many from outside of Aberdeen will take advantage of not having to travel to Glasgow to see their team? Or in fact how many northern rugby fans will take advantage of being able to see a Pro team in their back yard?  I know I will and I would class my self as an Edinburgh fan.

I was disappointed to see comments on social media from some Glasgow fans complaining about not being able to see their team during pre-season because they were playing in Ayr & Aberdeen.  I did the one thing you really should not and tweeted about this when my dander was up however I got a response of similar feeling.

It appears that there are a number of rugby fans from outside of the Central Belt who spend a lot of money and time to follow their ‘local’ clubs.  Some have picked between the Pro sides either for geographical reasons or feeder clubs.  I am a little more partisan I and I go for the love of the game. (Pass the bucket I think I have made myself sick).  I have over the last few seasons been to Murrayfield, Scotstoun, Pittodrie, Kingsholm, the RDS, Ravenhill, the Rec, Landsdowne Rd, Twickenham and Kingston Park to watch top-flight rugby. This month I will be going to Rubislaw and Sandy Park for some more. I know from seeing other fans that I am not alone in doing this; but very rarely do I see families of fans travelling unless it’s a major fixture.

If I, and others, are willing to spend time and money to travel across Europe following rugby and our clubs then surely we can ask the clubs to, where plausible, do the same for us?  And as I have mentioned feeder clubs could they not host the games as the Grammar are?  It could also introduce new fans or potential players to these clubs and that cannot be bad thing. This must surely be good idea for grassroots rugby?

Would nomadic Pro sides garner more support or lose some of their loyal home fan base? Maybe we should ask a Fez Head?  And if it was not financially beneficial would Saracens amongst others continually use this approach to bring rugby new audiences?

How far do you go to support your team?

12 Responses

  1. Moved to live in the Trossachs 2 years ago; I am a London Scottish supporter and still try to get to a few games in the season … I cannot quite see why Glasgow Warrior Supporters would complain about a preseason game in Ayr

  2. Edinburgh v Newcastle-cost to attend a home pre-season friendly in Hawick – 1/2 day annual leave, £40 train fare because it’s Friday, £100 hotel room because can’t get last train home and hotel rooms at premium rate for festival! & season ticket to get in match…just as well have seat on free bus laid on by club!
    If match was at Murrayfield, no need for holiday, would make train back to Montrose and entry with season ticket. Couldn’t afford to do this for a whole season if team go nomadic!! Been season ticket holder for over 10 years, rarely miss home game when based in Edinburgh, & follow team away when holiday and money allow.

  3. Sandra I see your point, therefore, would you be happier if Edinburgh, as Scotland have in the past, played somewhere like Perth, Dundee or Aberdeen?

    I’d written this piece before both as stated the Warriors visited Aberdeen, which drew a large crowd, and the announcement by the league that the 1872 games are both due to be played on Boxing Day & New Year’s Day. Will this effect the crowd numbers if (in keeping with last year) there is no or very little public transport? Sandra will you be going to either match?

  4. Sorry to say I disagree with this suggestion for competitive games.

    The future success of Glasgow and Edinburgh depends on building a large and stable support. In essence they need repeat business. Becoming nomadic would suit nobody that I can think of. In my view more support would be lost than gained by such a move. Maybe more unique induviduals would attend some games in season but overall numbers would fall.

    This is before you consider the significant hope advantage which would be lost (at least for Glasgow maybe edinburgh not so much) by the teams and would players like having to travel for home games.

    In summary a terrible idea I hope never catches on….

    1. Unfortunately you have hit the nail on the head when you used the word business. Pro rugby is now a business with revenue from ticket and kit sales helping recoup the losses sports teams generate. If the teams feel there is more money to be made by going on the on road for a couple of games a season there may be no stopping them.

      Glasgow Warriors tweeted there was a crowd of 1000+ at Rubislaw for the training game against Aberdeen and as such it may tempt them to come back in the future this time with tills.

  5. I think it is good for the pro-teams to get out and share the rugby feeling to spread the word to get more of a fan base i travel to scotsoun from Middlesbrough when i can and try to go to murrayfield twice a year but i have. Been to Newcastle falcons ground to watch Scotland A against the Saxons i know its not cheap put some fans can’t get to there matches so it is good to spread to the non rugby areas

  6. This will probably not go down well, but I think the SRU are moving a lot of things in the right direction at the moment. Taking pre-season games away from Glasgow and Edinburgh to broaden the interest in rugby can only be good but I think it would be a step too far to have travelling teams. Edinburgh and Glasgow have spent time establishing their identies where they are.

    I hope the SRU are making plans for a third pro team now. I cant remember how much it costs to run a pro team, but the recent kit deal and BT sport deals have both been sold to us as record deals, and attendances are growing at professional rugby – there must be more money in the bank now. Add in some oil money from Aberdeen and a ground share with the football club and 3rd team must be a possibility soon. Aberdeen deserves a decent top level sports team too for the size of it so I think decent crowds could be established.

    On the travelling team front the SRU could try and do a deal with the welsh, who are reported to be broke, and joint fund a team based 50% in Aberdeen and 50% in Wales with a 50/50 player split? Would get scotland up to 2.5 pro teams…

  7. I think taking pre season games around the country is a great idea and even more so if it is to locations from which it is feasible that new fans attending such a game would prompt them to make the journey to attend competition home games in Glasgow or Edinburgh

    Competition games, on the other hand, should be played at the regular home ground because

    1. Season ticket sales are the primary objective and I don’t believe as many people would buy them if it didn’t entitle them to attend all season’s games (at the same location each week)

    2. Linked to point 1 growing a solid and regular home fan base would have to be the other prime objective which in turn results in season ticket sales

    Living in Australia I don’t know what has become of the District Championship and hopefully someone can enlighten me. I do know that in Australia the lack of a semi pro competition, below Super XV, such as the Currie and ITM Cups is a bad thing

    Through the promotion and sponsorship of the old District Championship on a home and away basis, it would take the game back to the North & Midlands and the Borders while the Glasgow and Edinburgh sides could play from home grounds away from the Pro Teams home locations thereby making them accessible to a different or enlarged fan base

    It might also give an indication of the viability of a third pro team in the N&M or Borders

  8. I agree taking competition matches around the country poses some pretty significant questions about the nature of the Pro-teams.

    Can’t Edinburgh and Glasgow think more creatively about how to make it easier for fans to travel to games – put on free coaches from rugby clubs in Perth, Dundee, Stirling etc. to and from games? Aberdeen might be more of a challenge but I’m sure many people would travel for the more significant games.

  9. Barry, interesting points – I agree with others that it is a fine balance of showcasing the live game to the widest possible audience and running a business which will be most successful thru establishing a large and growing loyal fan base. Occasional games away from the main ground is probably as much as can be hoped for in the current stage of development of the two pro-teams

    PS I will look forward to welcoming you to Sandy Park at the end of the month – let me know if you need any help with travel, accommodation, etc.

  10. It’s a real problem in Scotland because there is just not the volume of top class rugby to keep everyone happy! Edinburgh and Glasgow really need to build passionate local fanbases – Glasgow look to be streets ahead in this regard – in order to make themselves viable and successful. On the other hand, the SRU undoubtedly has a remit to try and keep the rest of the country engaged in rugby in between the periods in November and Feb/March where the International team can bring the fans in from outwith the central belt.

  11. There are 2 points to made here.
    1. Other sports teams travel to their fans, or to make new fans. Jueventus FC often play pre-season or cup games away from Turin, in the bigger cities of Milan or Rome where they have a huge following. Or the NFL teams playing in London.
    2. The SRU have recently announced that we are to follow the ‘Irish model’. Presumably this means 4 districts, Caledonia as the ‘Ulster’, and the Borders as the equivalent of the Irish development side, Connought. This would spread the word of pro rugby around the country and leave Edinburgh & Glasgow to focus on their home territory.
    Having said that, 1 or 2 Glasgow games in Ayr or Stirling throughout the season could do a lot. Even Edinburgh in Livingston?

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion