Dundee High Rugby could bid for one of the SRU’s “Super 6” club franchises due to operate from 2019 but want as many of the city’s rugby resources as possible to come on board.
The Mayfield club have already had formative discussions with the High School of Dundee, the city’s Universities and the City Council about a possible joint bid for one of the six franchises that the SRU envisages will form the link between club rugby and the professional game.
Some financial support from Murrayfield will be given to successful bidders to help with coaching costs and developmental and academy players from Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby will be “farmed out” to the six semi-pro teams.
At least one of the Super Six clubs will be based in the Caledonia region – basically all territory north of the River Forth – and High president Gerry Tosh said that the club wanted to be part of what he described as an “exciting new future”.
Club officials have already been talking to Scottish Rugby in what Tosh described as “useful, informative and encouraging” meetings.
However, he added, there were challenging aspects to the bidding process as well, specifically in terms of funding and human resource.
“Things are changing at pace in rugby and Dundee would like to be part of this future, but realise we need many partners and individuals to make a success of this,” he said.
“We’d welcome contact from other rugby clubs in the city, from people who share this vision and even at this early stage possible sponsors should we decide to bid.”
High head coach Colin Sangster said that the Super Six was something the club “really wanted to be involved in”.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to provide a good level of rugby in Dundee for all aspiring young players who come through the local system or who may wish to come and study in the area and play rugby at the same time,” he said.
“It would attract some of the best young talent in the region and would provide the stepping stone to the pro game.”
Dr John Halliday, rector of the High School of Dundee and a present SRU Council member said that the move had their support.
“As Scotland’s fourth city Dundee is aspirational in terms of leading rugby and we wish to become a focus for the development of this great sport for the wider Tayside region and beyond,” he said.
“The Super 6 franchise will provide a platform to ensure this part of Scotland remains at the top table in rugby terms and we hope it will generate masses of interest and support, not just in rugby clubs, but also in the wider sporting and cultural community.”
The Super Six plan – part of “Agenda 3” as Murrayfield have named it – is what SRU CEO Mark Dodson sees as a blueprint for sustainable semi-professional clubs in Scotland to feed talent into the professional game and ultimately the Scotland team.
There is to be one team in each of the four Scottish rugby districts – the Borders, Caledonia, Edinburgh and Glasgow – plus two “floating” teams. These teams will play each other three times a season and also compete in cross-border competition for a season schedule of 20 games.
The SRU will provide £62,500 to each club for player costs and £65,000 for backroom staff. The Super Six will replace the current BT Premiership as the top tier of club rugby and all other rugby below that level will revert to being wholly amateur.
Super Six franchises will be for an initial five-year period, after which they will either be renewed or put out to tender again.
Dodson confidently predicted a fortnight ago that the SRU would receive “more than enough” applications despite some reticence from existing BT Premiership clubs.
Aberdeen was thought to be the potential base for a Caledonia franchise, but a stumbling block for all interested bidders is that there are only a handful of floodlit grounds in the region and only one 4G all-weather pitch used regularly for rugby, at the University of St Andrews.
Both of those facilities are seen as key elements of any prospective franchise by Scottish Rugby.
It’s understood that the University of St Andrews are considering forwarding their own bid and it’s expected that Stirling County, the most successful club in Caledonia, will also enter the process.
Scottish Rugby’s final briefing on requirements for the franchises will be given to interested parties within the next week, and it’s expected that the first bids could be tabled early in the New Year.