Scottish Rugby unveils season structure changes for boys’ schools and youth rugby
Following a consultation Scottish Rugby can now confirm a new playing structure for the boys’ Schools and Youth game which will see changes implemented for the upcoming 2023/24 season.
The decision to explore and consult on changes to existing playing structures derived from a desire from both Scottish Ruby and its clubs and schools, to enhance player development, increase game time and ultimately grow the game.
The consultation involved clubs, independent and state schools from the five regions – Glasgow North, Glasgow South, East, Caledonia Midlands and Caledonia North – delivering to or supporting rugby programmes across the youth and schools’ game.
These groups were invited to complete a survey and engage in a series of workshops, with their feedback helping shape the structure for next season’s competitions.
A number of key changes will be seen from the start of next season, beginning with the expansion to two National Club Conferences.
The new Club Conference structure will allow for 12 clubs to compete across National 1 and National 2 divisions for U15, U16 and U18 teams. The competitions will have two league tables, one for the overall Conference (combining points) and the other for the individual age-grades.
This model will allow for promotion and relegation in the 2024/25 season, with further movement between National and Regional Conferences set to come into effect in the 2025/26 season, based on criteria which will be formalised in the 2024/25 season.
The Borders Town Conference remains unchanged for Duns, Gala, Hawick, Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, Peebles and Selkirk, with Club Leagues at U16 and U18 level, and School Fixtures for U13-U15 levels.
The Schools Conferences have also had a series of changes implemented with the goal of delivering enhanced certainty and volume of playing opportunities.
The new groupings will provide a more varied opposition through the structure, flexible fixture formats, with adapted gameplay being promoted to maximise game experience for all.
A National Schools Conference will remain for all age groups, featuring seven schools.
In addition to this, there will now be two Conferences in the West, A and B, comprised of 13 schools in total, and there will be a combined Caledonia/East Conference with nine competing schools. These structures will be played on a home or away basis.
Further to this, a series of Regional Competitions and Play Programmes for both schools and clubs have been created and designed around the playing numbers of 76 regional clubs and schools to support growth and development of players and their respective environments.
A consistency across all Club and School Conferences and Leagues is a points-based change for the U13 and U14 age groups, who will now be awarded competition points based on participation. This change has been driven to create development driven and player centred playing opportunities, which instead are competition supported in the format of club versus club, round robin or festival format fixtures.
The National Youth and Schools Cup competitions will continue to run independently, but alongside all Conference and League competitions.
In addition, all National competitions will conclude in December for the continued alignment with Scottish Rugby Performance Pathway Programmes.
The new structures in place next season will see an increase from upwards 1,700 scheduled fixtures, to approximately 2000 scheduled fixtures for 110 Club and Schools.
Fixture details for the 2023/24 season will be confirmed with clubs and schools later in the Spring.
The structure for girls’ rugby in Scotland was recently restructured in line with the women’s game and the publication of Scottish Rugby’s Women and Girls Strategy.
inspiresport will continue as the title sponsor of the Scottish Rugby’s Schools and Youth Conferences.
inspiresport are the UK’s leading provider of youth sports development tours and offer professional coaching at some of Europe’s top professional clubs and federations for the benefit of players of all abilities. As part of Destination Sport Group, inspiresport can provide training opportunities at world-class facilities around the globe.
The ongoing partnership sees inspiresport bring tours to Scotland, providing young players with opportunities to engage with Scottish Rugby coaches, facilities and stadium tours to inspire the next generation of players.
Gavin Scott, Director of Rugby Development said: “The changes being implemented from next season are really exciting and will create new opportunities to develop and grow the game at our schools and youth club level. As Scottish Rugby continues to work collaboratively with state schools and clubs in particular to supporting our ever-growing population of young players, it is important we have the right structures in place so that players can access game-time, whilst we continue to also encourage established sides to become stronger and more sustainable.
“The changes to develop U13 and U14 non-competitive programmes will be a game-changer in supporting player-centred and supported playing environments, whilst the changes across the competitive programmes will create an increased and enhanced number of game play opportunities across the boys’ schools and youth game.
“The proposal for the changes in the structure has been shaped by the feedback we received from our schools and clubs, and I’d like to share my thanks to them for engaging with this process and wish everyone the very best for the 2023/24 season.”