Revised season structures for men’s game unveiled by Scottish Rugby
Scottish Rugby has confirmed changes to the men’s Regional and Reserve League structures for the 2023/24 season, following on from consultation with community game stakeholders.
The decision to consult on a series of changes was prompted by the fluctuation in player engagement in the adult male game following on from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Competitions team, which operates within the Rugby Development department set out a series of recommendations to the structures, which was endorsed by the Club Rugby Board (CRB) last month.
At the top end of the game, five structures will operate next year including the Premiership, and four National Divisions, each comprising of 10 playing teams. This is an expansion of an additional National Division, following on from the approved motion in the 2022 AGM to expand to four Divisions.
The first of the Regional League changes can be seen in Caledonia League Division 1.
This competition will now comprise of 16 teams from the Caledonia Midlands and Caledonia North region and will incorporate two conferences of eight teams – one for the top teams in the Midlands, the other for the top teams in the North. The conferences will see teams play on a home and away basis.
The teams finishing in first, second and third place from each conference shall progress onto a play-off stage of the competition to vie for promotion into National Division 4.
The team finishing in eighth position within each conference shall be relegated to their respective Regional League Division 2.
The structures of Caledonia Midlands League Division 2 and 3 will remain unchanged, alongside Caledonia North Division 2.
Caledonia North League Division 3 however, will follow the same conference structure as Caledonia League Division 1, but will include 10 teams (five per conference) instead of 12.
New for the 2023/24 season is the creation of a Regional Development Leagues, centred on participation. This structure has been created in response to challenges relating to fluctuating player numbers for additional teams across the region.
The Development League will see a minimum of one game per month in each region scheduled between identified teams, after which the teams can apply to their Regional Competition Committee for consideration to be included in the competitive league structures in 2024/25 season or beyond.
Teams withdrawing or disqualified from competitive Regional Leagues will automatically be included in this participation programme.
There are no structural changes to the Regional Leagues across the East or West, with exception of the Reserve Leagues.
The most significant change to the Reserve Leagues is the creation of an Inter-City Division. This competition will now sit at the top of the Reserve League structure, whereby teams in the Regional Reserve Division 1 Leagues will vie for promotion into the Inter-City Division.
This new structure will be comprised of 10 teams. Teams selected are the top five seeds from the 2022/23 East Reserve League Division 1 and West Reserve League Division 1 competitions. Teams will play on a home and away basis, and the team finishing in tenth position will be relegated to their respective Regional Reserve League Division 1 (East or West).
A new Borders Reserve League has been created in response to a desire from clubs based in the south of Scotland to play locally. Seven teams from the Borders will play of a home and away basis. There will be no promotion or relegation in this competition.
The Competition Rules for the Leagues will be updated to reflect the new formats and structures, and announced later in the Spring.
Scottish Rugby’s Head of Competitions and Compliance, Vicky Cox said: “It is incredibly important to Scottish Rugby that we provide clubs, players, coaches and volunteers within our sport a competition model which offers match fulfilment, quality competition and opportunities for progression where that is desired, and I am confident that the changes outlined today combine these three core aims.
“We have taken the time to gather feedback and listen to those at the heart of the men’s game and we hope that the new structures outlined will also create enhanced playing environments and opportunities to engage in our sport at all levels of the game.
“The Rugby Development Regional Management teams will continue to work closely with their clubs to provide ongoing support to ensure we minimise ongoing challenges and the support teams continue or return to competitive leagues in future seasons.”
Scottish Rugby Vice-President and Chair of the Club Rugby Board (CRB), Keith Wallace said: “As the socio-cultural landscape continues to evolve, it is important that we are as reactive as possible by offering a series of local solutions to local problems which will benefit our clubs and the wider health of the game.
“I’d like to share my thanks on behalf of the CRB for the engagement of our community rugby stakeholders in the consultation period, and to the Competitions team and Competition committees who have all worked together to review the current structures and revamp them in line with the feedback provided.
“Whilst we are coming to the end of the 2022/23 season, I am already looking forward to what next season has in store.”