A Guide to the Super Six

If you follow the club game in Scotland to any degree at all you’ve probably seen mention of Scotland’s new “club” rugby tournament, the Super Six. You might not have delved too deeply into what it is though, so the intention of this article is to explore that and to give the readers information on what the landscape of Scottish Rugby is going to look like for the beginning of Season 2019-2020.

I will touch on some of the controversies surrounding the creation of Super Six to set the background in which it has come to be but as it is definitely happening I see no point in raking over that ground excessively.

Aims

Super Six seems to be the brainchild of SRU CEO Mark Dodson.

The intention behind Super 6 was to provide a bridge between the current Premiership rugby teams and full-time professional rugby (Glasgow and Edinburgh) on the basis that the Premiership was not ‘fit for that purpose’.

What is Super Six?

Entities (not necessarily existing teams) were invited to apply for a franchise in a new league to start in season 2019-2020. These teams would be part-time professional, with set rules on player payment and governance.

These new franchises would be partly financed by the SRU to the tune of £137,500 each and partly by the individuals clubs own money but in order to qualify clubs had to commit to spending a minimum of £62,500 PA.

The teams whose bids were successful (and the coaches currently appointed to each) are:

  • Ayr (Peter Murchie)
  • Boroughmuir (Graham Shiel)
  • Heriots (previously Ciaran Beattie, now tbc)
  • Melrose (Rob Chrystie)
  • Stirling County (Ben Cairns)
  • Watsonians (Fergus Pringle).

The teams will play 12 domestic fixtures in a league with play offs and also cross-border fixtures against the six top placed Welsh teams in the Welsh Premiership from last season (Merthyr, Cardiff, Pontypridd, Llandovery, Ebbw Vale and Aberavon) in two pools of six where each side will play 3 home and 3 away matches. The winner will be decided based on overall league ranking.

In year one, due to the World Cup, the domestic matches won’t commence until November 9th and will run until the end of March 2020. The league will also pause during the 6 Nations when presumably there is a possibility of Academy players being retained by their pro clubs as cover or indeed taking part in the U20s version of the competition.  The cross border fixtures will take place between mid April and end of May.

In year two the domestic fixtures will begin in August 2020 and finish in November.  Cross border fixtures will remain between April and May thereafter.

Super six players will be part time professional rugby players and can earn up to a maximum of £12,000 per year as such.

Each team will have a playing roster of 35.

The players will be found from existing teams and each Super 6 team will have five FOSROC Academy Stage 3 players assigned to it.

Full time professional players with Edinburgh and Glasgow may play for a Super Six team as and when required.

Controversies

Like every new venture there will be proponents and opponents. Super Six has had its fair share of the latter. Right from the off controversy has surrounded it.  Those controversies have been fed largely by the seemingly secretive nature in which the SRU have gone about creating this new structure.

Some of the points –

  • The premiership is “not fit for purpose”. Many have considered this to be a fallacy and point to the players who have progressed from the Premiership to professional contracts with Edinburgh and Glasgow and in addition many have questioned whether this was the purpose of the Premiership in the first place.
  • No teams were awarded franchises in Glasgow or anywhere north of Stirling so it doesn’t serve to grow the game. Three of the teams who were successful are in Edinburgh and in the case of Boroughmuir and Watsonians you could, with a tail wind, throw a stone from Meggetland to Myreside.
  • What support is there likely to be for these clubs other than those who already follow their amateur sides, and by extension commercial opportunities?
  • The salaries available are insufficient to live on, thereby necessitating further employment alongside a supposedly part-time rugby job. You’d need an understanding employer.
  • There were arguments over the placement of the old amateur teams of the new Super 6 sides in the league structure, and about whether the players for these new franchises could also play for their amateur sides in the Premiership (or elsewhere) when required. These have been addressed, albeit not to everyone’s satisfaction.

What about the rest?

The following clubs will form the top amateur league (Premiership?) in Scotland in season 2019-2020:

  • Currie Chieftains
  • Glasgow Hawks
  • Hawick
  • Edinburgh Accies
  • Marr
  • Jedforest
  • GHA
  • Aberdeen GS
  • Selkirk
  • Musselburgh

National League 1 will be populated with the ‘amateur’ wings of the Super Six sides, plus Cartha QP, Gala, Kelso, Dundee HS, Biggar and Highland.

At the end of season 2019-2020 only one team will be promoted from Division 1 to the Premier league. Two teams will be relegated.

The lower divisions remain as is, with strict enforcement of amateur status promised. But as Nigel Wray might tell you, there are limits on payment and then there are limits on payment.

Opinion

Change is difficult. It will be resisted by many for no other reason than it is change.  It will be resisted and proposed for both selfish and selfless reasons on both sides.

I believe that the SRU, as ham-fisted and dictatorial as their relations with the clubs and media have been, have the best of intentions towards the whole of Scottish Rugby. Could they have approached it differently? Sure. Were they ever going to get consensus on the way forward between all the clubs involved? Not a chance. Their approach is top-down and the clubs work from the bottom up.

If we are competitive on a world stage it will boost participation on a local level. You only have to see how many people suddenly loved tennis when Andy Murray was winning to know that’s true.

To do that we need avenues for rugby players to develop, in environments that mirror our professional outfits as closely as possible. We can’t sustain a third professional rugby club in Scotland without a massive rise in the number of players of a sufficient level. It is never going to happen. Even the Welsh are struggling to keep all their sides afloat. This might be the solution to that conundrum.

It’s not perfect. Version 1.1 was never going to be, but my hope is that it will grow and before too long we can get back to talking about the rugby itself and not the politics surrounding it. We’ve enough of that in the world.

Edinburgh supporter and former tighthead whose clubs include Edinburgh Wanderers, Corstorphine, Lothian & Borders Police and The Co-optimists. I’m a much better player now than I ever was when I actually took to the field.
Follow Sandy on twitter @bigparahandy

26 comments on “A Guide to the Super Six

  1. sceptic 9 on

    good summary Sandy. Would just say on one of your “controversies” – about the premiership not being fit for purpose. Sure a (very) few players transferred to a pro team – some always would, but not enough were nearly good enough, or maybe should say were not playing at a high enough level to prove they were good enough. Proof -the objective measure is how our premiership teams did against Welsh ones in the past. And the answer is pretty terribly on the whole

    Reply
  2. Sandy Smith on

    Thanks Sceptic. I tend to agree with you but it has been one of the sticks pointed at this concept. Some of those that have made this complaint are now saying that the SRU will be delighted at the U20’s poor showing at their recent world cup because it justifies the creation of Super Six and that its more indicative of failure of of the Academy system. I take that with a pinch of salt. What is evident to me is that a higher standard is required to bring on these guys. Given that we have committed to Super Six hopefully that’s the solution.

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  3. pragmatic optomist on

    Although I understand the driving force behind setting up the super 6, the award of franchises to 3 Edinburgh clubs within 2 miles of each other, render the entire set up as ‘flawed’. It also left the SRU open to criticism of Edinburgh bias. Difficult to argue with this one based on the outcome.
    If anyone comes back with a comment like “they were the best proposals”, I will laugh out loud. (the crowds generated by this competition should also be interesting)
    Had the super 6 been set up on a regional basis, it would be difficult to criticise the concept, even if the clubs couldn’t agree.
    I remember various comments about “the door is open to adding other clubs to the six”.
    A Glasgow club being added at the expense of one of the Edinburgh clubs would be a step in the right direction.

    Reply
    • NADP on

      Why will you laugh? Were you in the room to see the proposals? Admittedly only people who can say whether they were or not are the SRU and folk will always doubt them. I agree that I can’t see massive crowds attending these games through. Although I think this would be an issue where ever the clubs were based. As it is effectively a development league with no chance of the team progressing why would any causal new fans turn up? Only folk there will be those who would be there for the prem games

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    • sceptic 9 on

      we’d all have liked a better geographic spread I think, but that shouldn’t be forced – the point is that these are autonomous franchises, not SRU poodles, which have to fund themselves way above the SRU grants. The best bids have to succeed. Were they the best bids ? Don’t know and neither do you, but we are where we are now, time to move on and give it a chance

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      • Scotty on

        Good report Sandy! NADP and Sceptic, I agree with your scepticism of crowd sizes and think that the SRU have missed a trick. I think that they could have really tarted out the super 6 clubs with advertising and a solid marketing campaign to make sure that all non rugby people who live near a super 6 team will be aware of it. Even mirroring some US College Football Ideas of making it more of a day/evening out rather than attending “just another match that doesn’t really mean anything” to get people in the door and increase revenues to put back into the game. But realistically the games will have a 3pm kick off on a Saturday (meaning people committed to non Super 6 clubs will not be able to attend) and it will just be the usual crowd as if nothing has changed, only a marginally better standard of rugby.

        I am not completely against the idea but I get the feeling that they are not going to get the full potential out of it.

        Part of the reason of Glasgow Hawk’s demise was that it became a team full of mercenaries and fans did not really know who they were cheering for with a different team each week. I hope the same doesn’t happen with the SS

      • sceptic 9 on

        marketing will be led by the clubs (helped by the SRU), not the other way around. Personally I think this is the right way. If these clubs really have aspirations to better things, then they need to professionalise the whole set up and cut the umbilical cord; stand on their own two feet. Those that raise more cash will have bigger budgets to pay more players up to the £12k max, so may well attract more of the higher quality players (other jobs permitting of course). A virtuous circle.

  4. Toonie's Advisor on

    Good report Sandy

    When do we expect the Super6 squads to be announced? Curious to see who the pro players draft to.

    Reply
    • Sandy Smith on

      Thanks TA. I’m starting to see some names being confirmed but i’m not aware of any official dates for for full squads as it stands.

      Reply
      • Toonie's Advisor on

        Yeah I seen Stirling County announce some signings but thought a more official announcement on squad dates would have been given by now. Maybe as its not kicking off till November there is not the same urgency….

      • Michael Zakko on

        According to Mark Palmer & TOF, looking like squads will be officially announced in September. Obviously that isn’t set in stone though.

  5. Old_Whistler on

    Thanks for that, Sandy. The clubs play 12 domestic fixtures, but with 6 teams playing the other 5 home and away that makes 10. Where do the other 2 come from?

    Reply
  6. The Scocha Steamer on

    Why say that a third pro club is “never” going to happen?

    It won’t any time soon, but that sounds a tad defeatist.

    Anyway, am being a bit harsh – good article and ‘mon Stirling.

    Reply
    • Alanyst on

      In any case, the main challenge to a third “elite-level” pro side is not players but demographics (base) and then marketing (tribalism) then providing a good experience (winning + facilities)…quality of rugby is fairly secondary.

      In the end I’d like to see a trans-national league below Pro14 involving non-elite pro teams based outside of the major centres (players get paid a decent wage, but no millionaires). These teams play in family-friendly times, not stadium-friendly times (i.e. not Friday Night), and you get to have a kick about on the pitch at full time and so on…

      This is a different concept to super 6 which is about bridging a talent development gap with little concern for the above factors…but not to say it can’t evolve in that direction.

      Reply
      • sceptic 9 on

        don’t know where to start with that Analyst.

        Quality of rugby for a 3rd pro team is absolutely essential. No one wil turn up to watch a team get thumped every week, whatever razzamatazz you surround it with. This would be a new team in scotland, not a long established US college better funded than our existing pro teams.

        Below pro14 the Super 6 will play “trans national ” against welsh teams. That is what they have managed to agree, can’t make others join can we? Lets see how this goes before we think about world wide domination!

    • Sandy Smith on

      Scocha – thanks. The third pro team thing is very much opinion but rather than defeatist I consider it realistic. Never is maybe pushing it a bit but unless the landscape changes significantly I think it highly unlikely.

      Reply
  7. Toonie's Advisor on

    A 3rd pro team is a long way off unless the SRU decide to take every player from Galsgow & Edinburgh mix them up and along with some upcoming talent, create 3 squads from the 2 we have. Otherwise you could end up in a situation where the 3rd pro teams 1st XV is a development team or worse, a has been team.

    Imagine going to watch this side against a full strength Leinster or Scarlets.

    Rory Sutherland
    Grant Stewart
    Murray McCallum
    Callum Hunter-Hill
    Kiran McDonald
    Luke Crosbie
    Matt Smith
    Adam Ashe
    Nathan Fowles
    Jason Baggott
    Rory Hughes
    Stafford MacDowell
    James Johnstone
    Damien Hoyland
    Dougie Fife

    I am not for a minute suggesting that they are the necessary 15 that would be the cast offs from the current 2 pro teams but some of them certainly would be.

    Reply
    • Thistle on

      or … without taking from the first choice Glasgow & Edinburgh line-ups… and signing big Scottish names from outside our 2 clubs (in the scenario where we could afford it)

      1. Dell/Reid/Marfo
      2. Kerr/Malcolm
      3. Welsh/Mcallum
      4. R.Gray/Carmichael
      5. Skinner/Mcdonald
      6. Graham/Strauss
      7. Hardie/Blake/Cowan
      8. Denton/Thompson
      9. Laidlaw/SHC
      10. Russell/Weir
      11. Maitland/Nairn
      12. Dunbar/Taylor
      13. Hutchison/Harris
      14. Mcguigan/Hoyland
      15. Hogg/

      You could brush up the rest of the squad where there is not 3 available players with Academy prospects and non-Scottish pros.

      Obviously this is all just to show there is the talent available for a third pro team without draining Edinburgh & Glasgow, bringing all that talent back would be near impossible though.

      Reply
  8. Sotonsaltire on

    As much as I wish every success to the players and teams and hope that the Super Six is a success, the wounds inflicted by the SRU in ignoring the largest market in Scotland linger.

    A pipe dream but a ‘mini-Warriors’ playing at Scotstoun on a Friday night would have been great, especially as we have lost a lot of Friday games due to the Premier Sports scheduling. I am aware there is an issue with using Scotstoun and really Glasgow City Council, the Universities and the schools should have got behind the Hawks more.

    Alas it was not to be and an urban population of c1m (Glasgow metropolitan area not the administrative city boundary) was ignored.

    Ayr and Stirling are not in Glasgow and the argument that they are ‘near’ is nonsense when it didn’t seem to prohibit two old Edinburgh clubs being awarded franchises when they are within spitting distance. Also, Stirling is not in the Highlands/North of Scotland!

    Whether it was the case or not, there will continue to be questions from ‘The West’ about bias towards Edinburgh at the SRU when lopsided decisions are made.

    Best of luck to all concerned and I will have a passing interest but will probably never see a super6 game.

    Reply
  9. ActuallyGrowTheGame on

    Nice article, I see the mention again of “strict enforcement of amateur status promised” – do we have any confirmation of from when and how this is to be enforced? The Sydney Suburban Rugby Union appear to enforce it fairly ruthlessly with forced demotions and fines for cheats – and rightly so, surely clubs should be investing in youth and growing their club, becoming sustainable and stronger.

    I read with interest another article saying we should re-evaluate what success looks like in club rugby, suggesting we should be looking more at youth participation followed by senior retention than climbing leagues. One point of Super 6 that enthused me was the promise of this amateurism, where clubs would have to work hard at becoming better clubs, not just 1st XVs, which in turn will make all local clubs stronger moving forward. Maybe we’d even see 2nd XV and 3rd XVs make a return.

    However, a short survey of social media rubbishes this. Rugby recruitment sites post current adverts for Scottish clubs (and I’m talking Nat 1/2/3 here, not just Prem) looking for overseas recruits and promising air fares, free accommodation, match payments etc. Then we have “amateur” clubs announcing signings – young talent moving to local premiership clubs to have a crack at a higher level will always happen, but geography dictates that several recruits to Prem and Nat1 clubs very strongly suggest alternative motivating factors.

    A far cry from your local best v our local best and socialising afterwards.

    Reply
  10. Not rocket science on

    Can we please have an article on anything? Sick of hearing about the cricket. Short of that, Neil, what’s your current starting XV for the Ireland game using only players born in months with an ‘r’…

    Reply
    • Cammy Black on

      We’ve got two podcasts recorded and ready to go but we’re hanging back a couple of weeks so they lead nicely into the summer tests.
      The new kit is released next Friday (26th) so we should have something on that.
      Other than that it’s a bit of a perfect storm of off-season and holidays. Rather give you something decent content wise rather than click-baity “12 things you never knew about…” other sites are resorting to in the absence of news.

      Reply
    • Neil on

      NRS i suggest you & anyone else interested watch the Fiji vs Maori All Blacks games which happened at the weekend, amazing spectacle of rugby showing Fiji at there best, Bill Mata and some of the new recruits played also, Bill had at least one storming run where be steamrolled about 4 AB’s

      Reply

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