• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Clubs warming to the idea of a winter shutdown

Ross Miller and his team-mates at Glasgow Hawks have spent this week switching between Scotstoun's astroturf and the gym hall at the High School.

They have dug deep, pumped iron, run themselves into the ground, and for what? On the off chance that there will be a massive thaw which allows their Scottish National League match in Jedburgh to go ahead tomorrow.

The probability is that Hawks and their Border rivals will be denied by the elements, reinforcing Miller's claim that the club structure is in urgent need of a revamp, away from the current midwinter blues.

"I'm a fan of summer rugby and I really think we have to look seriously at the idea, instead of just talking about it once a year," said Miller. "Why don't we start the season at the end of July and play the competition in an 18-week block through to the start of December? Then we could have a break until the end of February and stage the cup events, possible play-offs, and then the Sevens tournaments into April and May.

"As it is, we are in a scenario where we play one week, then off for three weeks, before coming back for another game if the weather allows it. It destroys any continuity or momentum and turns the second half of the campaign into something of a lottery."

Miller's argument was backed by several high-profile figures on the Scottish circuit yesterday. Kenny Murray, the coach of Premiership table-toppers, Ayr, said: "I think a short break would be good. Maybe the last two weeks in December and the first two weeks in January."

Ian Rankin, his counterpart at Dundee HSFP, added: "It's difficult to sell rugby when you're trying to play in a blizzard. The momentum just goes out of the leagues after Christmas and I think we have to look at addressing that."

Eric Strachan, the coach at RBS Caledonian League side, Aberdeenshire, was even more radical. "Nobody enjoys playing, training or watching in the depths of winter," he said. "We should play in the summer. Skills would benefit, the pace of the game would be higher, it would be a better spectacle and it would be easier to attract youth players. It has worked in rugby league. So why not union?"

Miller sympathises. Hawks are involved in a serious scrap with Watsonians and Hawick – just one point separates this trio – and yet there is only one automatic promotion spot. In short, clubs are fighting for their futures in a basket-case environment.

"These next few months are crucial for us, for Watsons and Hawick and we have to go down to Mansfield Park next month, which will be a really crunch fixture for both of us," said Miller. "We're determined to win the title; Glasgow badly needs to be represented in the Premiership and that is the stage where we want to play.

"But we also have to bear in mind the difference between going up and staying where we are. Last summer we lost about 10 players, so we don't want that to happen again. But, once the weather starts mucking things up, things move outwith our control."

Miller isn't the first to call for radical change in the domestic programme and he won't be the last. But if ever there was a time for the grassroots organisations to remind Murrayfield that the clubs are the SRU, this is surely it.

Contextual targeting label: 
Weather

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

137115