Scottish rugby has operated with just two pro teams for more than a decade, a situation some argue is hampering player development. This debate ran in our March 2020 issue

Face-off: Should Scotland have a third professional team?

Rugby Correspondent for the Scottish Daily Mail

The pathway to the top for young amateur players in Scotland is far too narrow with just two pro teams. Too many have to leave the country for the lower leagues in France or England to find a higher standard. Sadly, some stop playing in their teens due to lack of opportunities.

Geographically, it’s a disgrace that Scotland’s only two teams are based in Glasgow and Edinburgh – cities just 47 miles apart. There is huge interest in other parts of Scotland, such as Aberdeen and Dundee. Either one needs to be the base for a third club.

Alex Craig of Gloucester

Scot abroad: Gloucester lock Alex Craig is one young talent playing outside the country (Getty Images)

The Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) claim to not have the money for a third professional team and as a halfway house have set up a semi-pro league, the Super6. Three clubs are in Edinburgh and one each in the Borders, Ayr and Stirling. Vast areas are overlooked. Aberdeen and Dundee miss out again.

The creation of a third professional team to give young players all over Scotland – especially those outwith the central belt – a better chance of making the grade in their own country first and foremost is long overdue.

Scottish Rugby Correspondent for The Sunday Times

Only very recently have the SRU been able to fund two teams to a level where both are challenging for knockout rugby in the Guinness Pro14 and Europe.

There are many reasons why a third team would benefit Scotland, but there’s a single big one to explain why it hasn’t happened. The combined playing budgets of Edinburgh and Glasgow account for north of £12m per year and, with myriad other costs, the SRU simply don’t have the resources to start up and then maintain a new outfit to a degree where it wouldn’t become another Border Reivers.

Edinburgh v Glasgow

Not cheap: Edinburgh and Glasgow cost a lot to run, so could the SRU stretch to another team? (Inpho)

Before the plug was pulled in 2007, the Netherdale side’s struggles showed how hard it is to create something meaningful, even in a region with such rich rugby heritage. The SRU’s poor marketing and limited commercial clout didn’t help.

While modern Murrayfield scores higher on those counts, investors haven’t been clamouring to build them a new team, new venue or both.

Things could change with CVC’s cash, but for now the player pathway focus is on the ‘part-time professional’ Super6.

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This debate first appeared in the March 2020 issue of Rugby World.