Rugby Union: The Scottish lament

'I don't exactly know where our money is coming from, and I don't want to know'; Tim Glover finds that life on and off the pitch is painful for the poor relations

FROM HIS office window at the Richmond Athletic Ground, John Steele can see how the other half live. London Scottish's director of rugby has a good view of Richmond's all-stars in training.

For 120 years the two clubs shared facilities at the Athletic Ground, one of the more well-appointed grounds in west London: hop off the tube, a couple of pints in the Orange Tree and a few more in the clubhouse afterwards. That was the just the players.

Now, of course, in an attempt to pay for professionalism, Richmond, at least for match days, have moved down the M4 to share the Madejski Stadium with Reading FC and London Scottish have moved down the road to share the Stoop at Twickenham with Harlequins. The grass is not only greener on the other side but splendidly manicured. The problem is filling, or even half-filling, the new stadiums. This has led not only to financial migraines but a split personality.

Given his background - a Scottish grandfather, an Irish mother, born in Cambridge and a player for the Army, Northampton and London Scottish - Steele seems well qualified to be the Exiles' director of rugby. On the playing field things have not gone well; off it the symptoms of splitting are worrying.

London Scottish, promoted after beating Bristol in the play-offs last season, won their first game in the Allied Dunbar Premiership, at Sale, and have lost every one since. "Only our defeats to Quins and Bedford were disappointing," Steele said. "We could easily have six points instead of two. Like the other clubs who have been promoted, we are learning the hard way. It takes a few months to get acclimatised. The commitment from the players has been excellent."

London Scottish lost 22-20 to Harlequins earlier this month. "Our guys performed to 95 per cent, Quins to 60 per cent," Steele said. "We should have beaten them, but then you think, should we really? We are not into buying all-stars. Every week we are up against what seems like an international XV. Whether we like it or not, money has a huge bearing but the days of writing off another pounds 1m are numbered."

If Richmond have an investor in Ashley Levett, London Scottish have, as their chairman, Tony Tiarks. The difference is that Tiarks is not writing the cheques any more and the board, disillusioned with the club's poor crowds, have cut Steele's budget. It is probably half that of Richmond.

In a ground that can take 8,000 people, London Scottish are not getting many more than 2,000. The message to the public was: "You don't need to be a kilt-wearing, whisky-drinking, bagpipe-playing individual to come and support London Scottish. We are a London club playing Premier Division rugby in England and can boast a truly international squad."

The McAuslands and the Camerons in the squad are from Australia and New Zealand rather than north of the border and there has been speculation that the club will change its name, leaving the amateur sides to carry on at the Athletic Ground as part of the old London Scottish RFC.

Others would prefer the Premiership club to retain the name, emphasise their Scottishness, provide a nice malt and haggis and have a pipe band performing at the Stoop instead of a tape of Tina Turner. London Irish, despite replacing many of their Irish players with southern hemisphere talent, remain a green island in a sea of Guinness and their traditional hospitality is as attractive to English supporters as the Celts.

At the Stoop, the arrival of the Scots has not been conspicuously marketed. True, there is the Tartan Suite, but without a touch of tartan. A couple of weeks ago, anybody ringing the London Scottish club line would have received the following message from the secretary John Smith: "Like the rest of the administration staff, I've been sacked."

It prompted further speculation: if Harlequins could take over London Scottish's ticketing, membership and so on why not go all the way and swallow them in a merger? Nothing is further from Steele's mind. Today the Exiles are at Gloucester and he is looking forward to the imminent arrival of two South Africans, the stand-off Jarnie De Beer from the Free State and the coach Alan Zondagh from Western Province. "Alan has already had a significant input and Jarnie will give us invaluable experience," Steele said. "They will probably get another 10 per cent out of the whole squad. Things have turned full circle in the last 18 months. Clubs are reducing their overheads and there's little recruitment. There's a more pragmatic approach and rightly so.

"I don't exactly know where our money is coming from and I don't want to know. The important thing is that the boys are being paid at the end of the month. I couldn't sit here and tell them that they'll never have a worry in the world because I might find one day that I'm not being paid, but we can't allow things that are beyond our control to cloud the atmosphere. That would lead to a negative spiral. It hurts every time we lose and if it stops hurting and we become used to it we are in trouble. We are at the crossroads. We have to pick up a couple of wins. The spirit is there. There's been nothing half-hearted about our game in any respect. The key is to survive to next year when the game should be able to capitalise on the raising of its profile with the World Cup. The second time around we'll be much better but the opposition won't be."

Few would back London Scottish to win at Kingsholm this afternoon but Steele, who watched Harlequins beat Gloucester at the Stoop last Tuesday, is one of the few. "Quins made a couple of changes which had an effect on the other 13 men and they played some brilliant rugby," Steele said. "People forget that five years ago we were still watching somebody winning a game by two penalties to one. We now have a highly entertaining product which is getting better all the time."

Even so, he can't see that many Anglo-Scots, whisky-drinking or not, making the journey to the West Country. "We won't fill the Shed, that's for sure."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Support Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Support Engineer is required to join a well-...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Services Administrator - Swedish Speaking

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities Manager is required to join the m...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Mobile - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum