Rugby Union: Professionalism may be 'disastrous' for Scotland

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The Independent Online
The introduction of professional club rugby in Scotland could have potentially disastrous consequences for the game, according to an independent financial review conducted by Deloitte & Touche, a leading firm of accountants. It warns that some clubs could face deficits of more than pounds 800,000 in just three years.

That figure even allows for a high level of success in domestic competition for some clubs as well as European games and television revenue.

Graham Watson, a partner with Deloitte & Touche, said: "The bigger English and Welsh rugby union clubs benefit from significant television revenues and gate receipts that Scottish domestic club rugby cannot match at present."

There are also concerns that even though a club may initially benefit from television sponsorship, should they fail to qualify for Europe they could be left with massive wage bills.

"This could have potentially disastrous consequences for the rugby club and could lead to significant instability in Scottish rugby," the review states.

Watson added: "Our work has produced no evidence to suggest that Scotland can support a league of fully professional clubs which can compete financially with other major European clubs."

Fred McLeod, president of the Scottish Rugby Union, said: "Quite simply, if we are to have full-time professional rugby in Scotland, there is no alternative to it being at district level. That is what this debate should be about: looking forward to the reality of professional rugby and not looking backwards to amateur or semi-professional rugby.

"That is the only way we can hope for international, let alone European, success, an inescapable fact that seems to have become lost in the current debate."

The report also suggests that professionalism would initially mean a small number of top-level clubs dominating Scottish rugby, with other teams finding it increasingly difficult to compete.

In England, the Bath full-back Jon Callard has described a possible move to the Courage League Fourth Division champions, Worcester, as "challenging and exciting". Callard, however, stressed no decision had yet been made on whether he would leave the Recreation Ground for an expected player-coaching role at Sixways.

The former England international had further talks with Worcester's backer, Cecil Duckworth, on Monday. "It is a challenging and exciting prospect," the 31-year-old said. "But huge negotiations need to take place between both sides and there's no prospect of a decision yet."

The Bristol captain, Martin Corry, could also be on the move, although he has played down speculation of a possible transfer to Saracens. The London club have approached Bristol for permission to speak with their 23-year-old England A flanker.

"He is a good player," Saracens' team-manager, Mike Scott, said. "He would play fairly regularly for us if we achieved our goal of European rugby next season."

Saracens boast considerable back-row resources, having added South Africa's World Cup-winning captain, Francois Pienaar, alongside the England flanker Richard Hill and the uncapped No 8 Tony Diprose.

Corry, who has 14 months remaining of his Bristol contract, ruled out immediate transfer negotiations. "I have an important job to do at Bristol as captain, which is to help the club avoid relegation," he said.