Rugby Union: Cash boost for small fry

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Scotland's rugby minnows have been invited to grab a greater slice of the financial cake as a reward for raising standards at grass-roots level.

Bryn Palmer explains how, for the first time, increased television revenue will be targeted at the most ambitious clubs.

With contracts tied up with the BBC and BSkyB for the Five Nations' Championship and European Cup respectively, the Scottish Rugby Union yesterday announced it is to invest pounds 2.1m in club rugby this season - a 95 per cent rise on last year.

A total pounds 1.4m of that figure has been made available to build greater strength in depth throughout the three divisions of the Premiership and the seven National Leagues. Although pounds 385,000 has already been distributed on a shared basis depending on a club's league position, the rest will be issued according to development plans submitted by each club.

The Club Accreditation scheme is designed to provide incentives for clubs wanting to extend their coaching and playing facilities in the professional era.

Dougie Arneil, the SRU's technical administrator, who will oversee the development fund bids, welcomed the new initiative. "This is a fantastic opportunity for rugby to broaden its base, because we need to build greater strength in depth at club level," he said.

"Over the past 10 years we have seen clubs which used to field four or five teams at different levels being reduced to only two.

"I see this scheme as a positive step in reversing that process and making clubs vibrant places which are a natural breeding ground for identifying and nurturing young talent."

The SRU has already attracted three times as many coaches to coaching courses this year compared to last, with a further increase expected as part of the investment programme.

Duncan Paterson, the chairman of the executive board, stressed that individual clubs can expect to receive around pounds 13,000 in additional funds with an appropriate development plan in place.

"This represents a substantial rise in income at club level, with funds being targeted for the first time at clubs which display ambition and drive," he said. "We have always made it clear that all of Scottish rugby must move forwards, and that we cannot divorce development at the top of the game from the grass roots.

"That commitment will best be achieved by investing wisely in the club game, ensuring that vision and ambition are proportionately rewarded."