Rugby: Calder tips semi-pro set-up to bolster domestic game

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Former Lions captain Finlay Calder believes Scottish rugby is moving towards a more stable base with a semi-pro Premiership backing up the country’s Rabo Direct Pro 12 league teams.

Such a scheme is planned for Wales amidst speculation that Scotland could follow suit. Said Calder: “I think we are going to a semi-pro First Division.

“It is a natural progression at a time when the current top eight comprises Aberdeen, Dundee, Stirling, Boroughmuir, Currie, Ayr, Melrose and Glasgow – a good spread.

“A semi-pro game would need funding but there is a willingness to make it happen. There’s a lot of money in Aberdeen, for example, to make a good go of it. But there would need to be some form of promotion and relegation, say one up and one down. An eight team semi-pro league would also be good for players to move back and forward with the fully professional game, just as Johnny Beattie did when he turned out for Ayr recently in the British and Irish Cup. Others could do the same.”

Calder also made clear that criteria would have to be met in terms of facilities but called for “light touch” regulation to prevent some teams being frozen out. This season Calder has been scouting for his old club, Stewart’s Melville, in watching upcoming opponents in Division Two. But he has also been able to note improving Division One standards.

“I watched Currie at Edinburgh Accies recently and from what I saw they’ll take a lot of stopping,” said Calder, who was speaking at the launch of the Glengoyne Eve of Calcutta Cup charity dinner planned for Edinburgh on Friday, February 3.