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The SRU draw huge revenue so why do sportscotland fund the sevens team?

IF the Scottish Rugby Union are not praying for a "yes" result in the forthcoming referendum, perhaps they should be.

GIVE ME SEVEN: Mark Bennett high fives Scotland supporters at a sold-out Ibrox during the Glasgow 2014 rugby tournament. Picture: Craig Gibson/SNS
GIVE ME SEVEN: Mark Bennett high fives Scotland supporters at a sold-out Ibrox during the Glasgow 2014 rugby tournament. Picture: Craig Gibson/SNS

England are the team of choice to qualify Great Britain for a rugby sevens place in the 2016 Olympic Games. And, if they qualify, it is most unlikely that there will be other than England players in the squad.

If Scotland were independent, they would be entitled to attempt to qualify in their own right: a borderline shot on current form. Only 12 teams are entitled to play. Scotland are 12th.

A Lions-style sevens side would whet the appetite of UK rugby fans come Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Indeed, the sevens version may soon do for rugby what Twenty20 has done for cricket. England masquerading as Britain in any sport, though, has an unhealthy history.

The contentious issue of Scots participating in Olympic football is too worn to bear revisiting but, over the years, Scottish players in a range of team sports have questioned the fairness of a selection process dominated by England officials wearing GB hats. I even recall an England cycling team at the Commonwealth Games with GB bikes, and being furious when it pointed out that they could not use them. But I digress. We are talking about traditional team sports here.

Edinburgh's Laurence Docherty was so disillusioned by his omission from Team GB's hockey squad in 2000 that he switched nationality to the Netherlands, and fulfilled Olympic dreams by playing in the Beijing Olympics.

In basketball, Scotland had only one player in London's Team GB: Kieron Achara. It may be fair to say that no Scot was harshly treated by being omitted. That's more a reflection on the few opportunities Scots have to play at a sufficiently high level to develop their game: a summation that could apply to several sports.

But sevens? The game Melrose gave to the world?

The International Olympic Committee and the rugby unions in Great Britain, have agreed that England be designated to attempt to qualify Team GB for both men's and women's sevens in the 2016 Olympics. The men's first attempt is at the Hong Kong sevens and, for women, in the IRB world series. Scots who want to see a Team GB rugby side will perforce cheer on England.

A top-four finish will confirm GB's place in Rio. Otherwise it would be via a European Regional Championship, and ultimately a final tournament which to qualify a single men's and women's team.

So England qualify? What chance would there be of them abandoning the squad that got them there? Even less than there was for Scots on the last Lions' tour.

A GB sevens company is being formed and the British Olympic Association will be asked to recognise it as the national body. It may be the only way to pave the road to Olympus for rugby, but it cannot other than marginalise sevens in Scotland and Wales. Ireland's lack of interest in sevens is such that they don't even enter IRB competitions.

How interested is the Scottish public? Ibrox staged a fantastic Commonwealth sevens tournament but, if that reflected domestic interest, Scotstoun would not be the sevens venue of choice. Interest is clearly not enough to warrant use of Murrayfield.

Countries chasing a place in Rio have teams of sevens specialists. The sevens lobby will tell you it's a different game, with different skills. It certainly requires greater aerobic capacity and pace. Scottish rugby's pace is mostly imported. There is a dearth of pace in Scotland. The fastest players will be grabbed by XV-a-side.

Those contracted to play sevens are not the household names of international rugby. Bluntly, they are players who have not been offered pro XV-a-side contracts. Sevens players earn significantly less than half of Scotland's best XV-a-side squad.

Yet the IOC wants the biggest celebrity names. When the Olympics opened the doors to tennis and basketball it was on the understanding that the world's best players would appear. And they made it happen.

Scotland's sevens team has never been involved in a match where victory would have brought a medal. Rugby in Scotland has received a total of £7.386m from sportscotland during the current eight-year term. In the four seasons from 2011-12 to the present, sportscotland has invested £586,250 in sevens.

Why? The SRU draws huge revenue. Rugby is Scotland's second biggest commercial sport.

Its over-rated sevens players earn substantially more than most of the minority sport competitors who won medals in Glasgow, many of them genuinely world-class.

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