League rugby for clubs to return in September as regional plan with no relegation is rejected
Scottish club rugby will resume in September in the same format used before coronavirus brought the grassroots game to a grinding halt.
A proposal to restart the leagues on a regional basis with no relegation and promotion was rejected by clubs who have voted in favour of the status quo.
However, the Scottish Cup has been put on the back burner as all efforts are concentrated on getting the divisional competitions back up and running.
Club rugby has not been played since March 2020 when the country went into lockdown. The 2019-20 season was subsequently declared null and void and attempts to start the 2020-21 campaign foundered due to Covid.
The only rugby played in Scotland during the last 15 months has been at elite level involving the national team and the pro sides, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors.
However, the Scottish Rugby Union has now confirmed the resumption of a national competitive league structure for the 2021-22 season following a consultation with clubs and schools.
The Union said it received responses from 252 clubs and schools, with 63 per cent stating their preference for Option A, a national league structure with promotion and relegation, rather than Option B, a regional league structure with no promotion or relegation.
An important amendment in the event of the season being disrupted again due to Covid is that promotion and relegation will be applied if 65 per cent of all league fixtures have been fulfilled.
There was controversy when the 2019-20 season was abandoned after Biggar had already won Tennent’s National Division 1 and Dalkeith had won regional East League Division 3. The latter had even had the trophy engraved.
However, when the season was declared null and void the titles were wiped from the record books and the promotions expunged.
It was also tough on Marr who were on the verge of an historic first Tennent’s Premiership title, and Watsonians and Heriot’s who were battling it out at the top of the inaugural semi-pro FOSROC Super6.
The welcome resumption of club rugby covers the men’s and women’s Tennent’s Leagues along with the youth and school conferences.
A decision on the resumption of cup competitions will be made later in the season.
A statement from Scottish Rugby said: “Delivery of the Tennent’s Leagues, which are unchanged for the new season under Option A, will become the priority for Scottish Rugby in the upcoming season. As such, cup competition details and fixtures will not be confirmed until later into the season when Scottish Rugby can be confident that the 65 per cent target can be reached.”
Sheila Begbie, Scottish Rugby’s director of rugby development, said: “Further to the announcement made today, we anticipate that a number of clubs will wish to review their position and may request to step down into a lower league following changes to their squads or player numbers. As a result, we anticipate publishing fixtures week beginning 21 June having received and considered any and all requests.”
Ian Barr, the SRU president, said: “On behalf of the Council I’d like to thank everyone from across the game who shared their views and insight to enable us to have a clear competition structure at every level, across the whole country, for rugby to resume fully when safe to do so.”