If there was one single change to be made to Scottish Rugby that would benefit it more than any other, I think it would be changing the amateur sport (right up to premier club level) to being a summer sport. Yes, there would be logistical difficulties; but none of them any more insurmountable than those the sport faces just now. But the benefits would far outweigh the difficulties.
Just for the moment, leave the pro game and international game largely the same i.e. a season that runs from September to May; with Autumn Internationals and 6 Nations tournaments roughly in the same block of time as at present. But move the amateur game, to being a sport that runs from March to September/October. Start the season with a month of 7s tournaments (April). Fitness and skills are worked on over that month. Then play the 15s league in one solid block through May, June, July, August – the benefits are a consistent week by week calendar, with the game played in the best of the weather. Then finish the season with some cup tournaments in September.
Then the amateur game closes for the winter.
Players at the top end of the club game would then be free to go and do some development training with the pro teams, without having to fit in club sessions and games. The vast majority of the rugby community would be free from playing and coaching responsibilities, so would have time to watch, support and follow the pro teams and the international side. At the younger end, schools and youth players would play in the better weather – you could have a Sevens seasons for schools in the Spring; and a 15s seasons for schools in the Autumn. Again, no youngsters are being forced out into cold, wet weather. Youngsters can work on their skills in much better weather, conditions much more conducive to skill development. The elite youth players could be doing some specialist training over the winter in regional indoor facilities.
The difficulties? The arguments often touted are competition with cricket and athletics.
Is that any greater than the competition with football in the winter?
Another one is holidays. There are probably just as many amateur players who disappear for a fortnight at some point over the winter as over the Summer. The weather and festive period probably causes as many lost player hours as a summer holiday or two.
Looking at creating a season that maximises enjoyment for players and supporters, and a structure to the game that makes the professional and amateur parts of the game, complimentary to one another, rather than competitive against each other, for a small resource pool.
Why don’t we take a risk?