It is an increasingly common way for governments, national and local, to get themselves some headlines and some breathing space and deflect attention from their own myriad faults to declare ‘an emergency’.

Theoretically declaring ‘an emergency’ should get the politicians some extra powers to combat a genuine need. We’ve had housing emergencies, a cost of living emergency, various terrorism emergencies and the most important of them all, the climate emergency. But did you see anyone at national or local level actually doing something about such emergencies. No, neither did I…

Too often emergencies are about making a political drama out of a crisis, but in some cases there really is an emergency either extant or brewing, and action is needed and fast to prevent things getting worse. 

Today I am declaring an emergency for Scottish rugby. Not because our national squad is rubbish, and our two professional clubs are useless, because they’re not. The emergency I am talking about is at the grassroots level.

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I was shocked but not surprised when Walkerburn RFC collapsed last month. It had been known for many months in the Borders that the club was struggling to find players, and it took a monumental effort by the local community to stage its annual Sevens.

It was reported online this week that “there is talk of a revival for next season, but occasional matches seems a more likely scenario as opposed to a full league schedule.”

That’s my information too. Then yesterday came the awful news that Royal High in Edinburgh is in a very dire situation and may have to withdraw from competitive league rugby next season. 

The committee took the brave decision to go public and let people know how bad things are. Their announcement stated baldly: “Despite all efforts to recruit and retain players, the club has faced an ongoing struggle to assemble teams for the last two seasons. Additionally the burden of organising the club has taken its toll on committee members. 

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“Therefore we are seeking help and support from individuals willing to assist in operating the club plus recruit players for next season otherwise league withdrawal will be the only option.”

As with Walkerburn, league withdrawal will almost certainly end the club as players will go elsewhere to get a game. Royal High has a thriving mini section, but the club can’t wait around until the youngsters grow up.

This is no newbie club in trouble that we are talking about. This is a club that has a rich history dating back to 1868. This is is a club that was a founding member of the Scottish Rugby Union, for goodness’ sake. A club that provided many internationalists including Mark Coxon Morrison who captained the British and Irish Lions on their tour of South Africa in 1903 – Jeff Connor and I told his fascinating story in our book Once Were Lions.

Back in the 1960s, when Edinburgh Corporation decided to build the new Royal High School at Barnton, and withdrew the funding for the Jock’s Lodge playing grounds, it looked like trouble ahead for the RHSFPs, as  they were then known. So it proved  - the club tried amalgamation with Corstorphine RFC in 2003, but that only lasted to 2017 for various reasons.

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It’s been an open secret in Edinburgh rugby circles over the last few years that Royal High were having trouble finding new recruits, but it still shocked me to the core to read of its possible demise, at least as a league club.    

Only last week I was writing about the SRU’s Social Return On Investment (SROI) report showing that there is absolutely no doubt that rugby in Scotland contributes greatly in terms of health, social and economic benefits at the grassroots levels – worth £160m a year according to the report’s compilers Substance.

I think I was the only writer to sound a warning note last week after the report was published. I wrote: “The figure of registered players was put at 50,000, but how can that be the case when clubs are reporting difficulties in getting teams out each week of the season?” 

I also recorded that “Substance had to report that of the 169 member clubs in the SRU, just 101 or 60%, actually responded to the club survey.” The more I though about it the more I realised that lack of interest was real and right across the board, and indicative of the malaise that’s affecting many clubs.

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I am not going to name them, but from various sources I have heard of between six and eight SRU member clubs in the same situation as Royal High – they just struggle to find players for first XV matches, never mind Seconds or Thirds. 

It has to be concluded that the SRU is failing the game at the grassroots level. There is an emergency out there, so can somebody at Murrayfield or anywhere else do something about it?