Dundee High Rugby are asking the Scottish Rugby Union’s championship committee to make the now cancelled 2019-20 club season null and void, thereby saving them from relegation from the Tennent’s National League One.
Scottish Rugby last week cancelled the remainder of the club season as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. High were already confirmed as relegated from National One with two games to play in their season, having won just three of their 20 games during an injury-ravaged campaign where they used an unprecedented 60-plus players.
However only three clubs in the National league set-up had actually confirmed their promotion and relegation fates when the season ground to a halt – Biggar as National One champions and Carrick in National Three are the others, and the issue will go before a meeting of the SRU’s championship committee, probably sometime in April.
Club were given a range of options of what to do about the season by the committee which had to be submitted to Murrayfield by Wednesday, and High president Gerry Tosh said they were in favour of the season being made null and void.
“There’s self interest in there, we’ll readily agree,” he said. “But there is a kind of precedent in that Ireland just this week have made their cancelled season null and void, and they were only a couple of games in the schedule behind us in Scotland.
“Also, in National One it’s just ourselves and Biggar. You do feel sorry for them because they’re a good and vibrant club, but this has been a bit of a rare season anyway.
“This year was meant to be purely amateur and we prepared for it that way. However at the very last moment there was a stay of execution.
“We didn’t have time to bring in players and compete at that level, and really that’s why we’re going down. In previous years we’d have brought in two or three players.”
Biggar were one of those clubs able to bring in players as semi-pros, but it’s anticipated that club rugby will become purely amateur next season, as intended under the SRU’s Agenda Three structure that also produced the “elite” SuperSix league.
“We’ve heard they’ve been paying players more in National Two and Three this season than they have in National One, it’s just daft,” continued Gerry.
“The idea was that club rugby became pure amateur and that still seems to be the plan. We’ve asked for clarification on that and been told they’re discussing it, but I’ve seen nothing yet that gives me absolute assurance that it will happen.”
Gerry still thinks High will be playing National Two next season, but he believes there should be a debate.
“Next year we should be all amateur and all on a level playing field,” he continued. “There weren’t many promotion and relegations decided, and you can’t say that we’ll promote Biggar and relegate Dundee and leave everyone else the same, it doesn’t work like that.
“It should be (promotions and relegations) across the board or not happen at all.”
Meanwhile the club don’t think they’ll take a huge hit if they are relegated, and are reasonably robust against the enforced lockdown of rugby for the rest of this season.
“The SRU’s hardship fund gives £5k to every club if they can justify it and whatever government schemes are available, we’ll get some advice on those,” continued Gerry. “We’ve got money in the bank and a small fighting fund, but it won’t last forever.
“We don’t have any sugar daddies on the horizon, or at least not yet! We just try to be sustainable and make good decisions, keep our feet on the ground and not make any mistakes during this period and we don’t think going down to Division Two will harm our income over the next 12 months.
“The only hit we’ve had is the cancellation of our final lunch club, which was a sellout for the game against Kelso and the former British Lion Roger Baird was going to be our speaker.
“It was our premier lunch for the year and that’s a wee hit on us, but the lunch clubs generally do very well and we work very hard at them, that won’t be affected by going down.”
The club are also looking to start a charitable trust to get some backing for Dundee Juniors, the city youth rugby teams that are supported by a number of city clubs.
“We’re looking at starting a charitable arm, get some good quality trustees on that and raise money for rugby in all of Dundee, helping the Juniors in particular,” said Gerry.
“It’s that secondary school age group, the S1 to U18s: if we get that populated properly, the future health for rugby in the city is strong.”
Colin Sangster, the head coach of the senior team, is taking on a new remit as Director of Rugby. Long-time Mayfield favourite Alan Brown, lately in charge at Strathmore, will be the new first team head coach next season wherever High are playing.
“Colin’s going to focus on getting our coaching schemes as qualified and advanced as possible, having that continuity all the way up from the juniors to all the teams, Dundee and Morgan,” said Gerry.
“Broonie was with us 18 years as a player and he’s in with the fittings – his Barbarians shirt is on the clubhouse wall. He was always a talisman as a player and will be as a coach.
“He did well at Strathie and when he left us he always said he would come back, and we always said we’d welcome him back.”