Scottish Rugby, the national governing body for rugby union in Scotland, has reported record turnover of £51.4m (€57.5m/$67m) for its 2016-17 financial year and has moved to revamp the structure of its domestic club game.
Scottish Rugby has attributed increases in ticketing revenue, achieved through three sell-out Six Nations matches at Murrayfield in 2017 and growing crowds at other matches, improved broadcast rights payments and continued commercial growth from sponsors to the £4m increase in turnover from the 2016 accounts.
Nearly 600,000 fans watched an international or professional club game in Scotland last season which in turn led to a 25 per cent rise in ticketing revenue, compared to the last non-Rugby World Cup year (2014-15), and a 22 per cent rise in broadcast rights income. A surplus of £1.7m was achieved in the 2016-17 financial year and a £3.3m fall in the average debt, which was reported at £5.2m.
Scottish Rugby chairman Colin Grassie said: “While this is pleasing, we cannot be complacent as professional player costs continue to rise and competition for broadcast and sponsorship deals remains fierce. Scottish Rugby is at a pivotal moment. We need to be creative to combat the challenges ahead while also driving forward our ambitious modernisation and commercial strategies.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Rugby has unveiled a complete overhaul of its domestic structure. A new top tier of the domestic game will be created for the 2019-20 season, entitled Super Six, which will be semi-professional and seek to close the gap between the club game and professional teams in Scotland.
The move is being backed with £3.6m of new Scottish Rugby investment over five years reaching every club in Scotland. All the Super Six teams will be overseen by Scottish Rugby’s High Performance department which will allocate funding for head coaches, strength and conditioning and analysis support. Funding costs for squads of 35 players will be split between Scottish Rugby and the clubs, with teams playing a 20 match season.
A new Scottish Championship of 12 teams will be created beneath Super Six alongside a new three division National League structure, all of which will contain wholly amateur teams. With franchises in the Super Six running for five years at a time, Scottish Rugby said it hopes teams in the Championship and National Leagues can build stronger community ties and focus investment on developing their clubs in the absence of player payments.
Clubs can apply to join the Super Six tier and will be required to bring their own investment to the table to complement Scottish Rugby’s financial support. The teams will be geographically aligned with Scottish Rugby’s four regions of Caledonia, Glasgow and the West, Edinburgh and the East and The Borders, with two floating teams, and partnered with one of Scotland’s two professional teams, either Glasgow Warriors or Edinburgh Rugby.
Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson said: “It is a new beginning for our whole sport, not just the top clubs. It resets the ambitions of everybody and offers every club a fresh start. For the first time since the game went professional this strategy involves all the clubs in the success of our national team. We want to create strong sustainable clubs that can play at the level which best suits them and that they can choose.”
Scottish Rugby currently operates a system whereby the top-tier Premiership has 10 clubs, with the National One, Two and Three leagues featuring 12 clubs each.