London Scottish and the SRU have announced that their mutually arrangement to loan players and coaches is over, just weeks before pre-season was due to begin.
According to a London Scottish statement it seems that the problem arose when they sought an adjustment of the financial structure when the SRU did not provide the quality or quantity of player they were anticipating, dropping from 14 to 10. This required the club to adjust budgets that were to that point freed up from wages – and put towards improved facilities and accommodation – back to the costs of signing the additional players required.
“Remember, this partnership was the SRU’s idea in the first place, and they offered to second 14 players as well as coaching and support staff. We therefore budgeted accordingly to fund fewer players and instead to cover the extra costs of accommodation and better training facilities. When, only last month, the SRU revised the offer to only ten players, and none of them senior players, London Scottish had to find extra players at extra cost. With pre-season a few weeks away, our budget and planning were suddenly blown off course.”
“We therefore questioned the support costs we were due to cover, and sought to negotiate this point. However we agreed last week to find the additional funds, only to be told the SRU felt they could not justify their own expenditure on the project.”
Instead of coming to a deal in which London Scottish appeared ready to compromise and sort out the funding, the SRU have now pulled out altogether. A quote in the Sunday Times in an article by Mark Palmer had the SRU citing concerns with London Scottish’s business model, although it would be surprising if they were vastly different from any other mid level sporting enterprise in this day and age.
It’s a big blow for the stream of young Scots hoping to follow in the footsteps of a number of Scottish greats who plied their trade at the exiles, and no word has been announced on the futures of Director of Rugby Sean Lineen and coach Roddy Grant who had been steering the ship well since January.
With the public war of words between Exiles chairman Sir David Reid and the SRU now well under way, it is also a big blow to the chances of any such arrangement in future at least until regimes at either club have cooled down or changed personnel. Hopefully some form of compromise can still be reached.
Given the SRU’s own issues with debt management and misadventures in the private sector in the past it is understandable that they might baulk if the viability of the deal became uncertain, however the extra clout of BT’s financial sponsorship should surely give them the stability to continue supporting this scheme? It’s also horrible news for any of those players who were all set for the move south who now have much less clarity on where their playing careers go next.
If you are a young Scottish player looking for somewhere to develop your professional rugby, the search goes back to the drawing board. Despite a strong exiles structure in place, more and more players may have to act independently and follow in the footsteps of Mark Bennett and Huw Jones to find a more unconventional route into the navy shirt of Scotland.
UPDATE: the SRU have issued an incredibly brief statement of their own:
After a period of review and reflection (at the end of the season) the Scottish Rugby Board decided not to deepen the relationship with London Scottish further as the performance environment in place was not sufficiently developed to offer the player pathway we had envisaged.
It is disappointing that despite the best efforts of both parties we have been unable to progress the player development pathway as we had both hoped. We will stay close to London Scottish and remain supportive of their strategic ambitions.
The SRU clearly wants to see other people and remain friends, but you can bet London Scottish will be feeling dumped and off to download Tinder…
(Thanks Mike L for the link)