Super Series, the semi-professional league designed to bridge the gap between the amateur game and the professional ranks, is to be disbanded at the end of the season after five years.  

Licence agreements for the franchises - Ayrshire Bulls, Boroughmuir Bears, Heriot’s Rugby, Southern Knights, Stirling Wolves and Watsonians - will not be renewed when they run out at the end of this year.  

It remains unclear whether this year’s Super Series Championship will go ahead, though Scottish Rugby figures indicated they expect it will be played. The Super Series Sprint is also scheduled to go ahead this year as planned.  

The participating clubs were informed at a meeting on Wednesday evening.  

In its place, Scottish Rugby has unveiled plans for a new ‘male performance pathway’ that will see a move to professional ‘A’ team games, the return of Scotland ‘A’ matches and expanded academies to work with players in an under-23 age bracket.  

The new plan was revealed to the media in a lengthy briefing yesterday by Scottish Rugby’s technical and operations director Stephen Gemmell, Glasgow Warriors managing director Al Kellock and Keith Wallace, Scottish Rugby Limited vice-chairman.

Each of them has been part of discussions around the future of the semi-professional league. 

Scrapping Super Series

Gemmell said a shift in the global rugby landscape was part of the reason for the decision.  

He said: “The game has moved on. It was brought in initially to improve the standard at the top of the club game and I think unequivocally it has done that.  

“But in the last five years, the professional and international game has moved on considerably, and at the same time has moved slightly.   

“To be able to lift Super Series up and move it to where we need it from a performance perspective, in my view is beyond the resources we currently have, and therefore you’ve got to build a model in a Scottish context – this is what we’ve got and this is what we want to achieve, this is what is most urgent, so where can we make the biggest gains. 

“Super Series was loved by many, loathed by others, that’s a fact. What we’ve tried to say is, with what we’ve got, where do we need to get to?” 

When asked about the cost of the tournament over the past five years, Gemmell was unable to provide a figure, but said financial pressures were not part of its scrapping.  

He added: “The decision not to renew Super6 is not from a financial perspective - what we’re looking at is how we utilise the resources that we have. All the costs will go through the budget process.” 

Scotland Rugby News: Stephen Gemmell, Scottish Rugby's technical and operations director. Image: SNSStephen Gemmell, Scottish Rugby's technical and operations director. Image: SNS (Image: SNS)

Wallace said discussions about what the club structure would look like following the scrapping of Super Series are ongoing.  

He said: “That’s an exercise we are just starting. I am optimistic that we can find a solution if we make sure people have a good feel for the situation.” 

But the former Haddington RFC president hopes the club game will benefit from the players dropping back into the amateur ranks.  

He added: “We’re trying to narrow the players we’re investing in down to our very best. 

“We don’t know where all those players will go. I think a whole lot will come back into the club game, and the club game will be better for that.” 

Under the new proposal, it is hoped Edinburgh Rugby and Glasgow Warriors will field ‘A’ sides made up of Scottish-qualified, under-23 players. It is hoped they will play up to 10 games a season.  

The new vision

Former Scotland captain Kellock explained more about how the new set-up will work.  

“The bulk of the academy will remain under-20, so they’ll still be playing through their under-20 international programme, then we’ll be having conversations in and around where we pick up these ‘A’ games.  

“We’re look at about 10 games but that will depend on the number of Scotland A games we land on, and how much opportunity for these kids to play up as well. 

“It will be other URC teams, and although the English Premiership teams are moving away [from ‘A’ games] there are still some who are looking for fixtures.  

“There is a definite appetite from the Italians and there’s an appetite already been shown by some French teams. 

Scotland Rugby News: Action from a Super Series game between Ayrshire Bulls and Glasgow Warriors 'A'. Image: SNSAction from a Super Series game between Ayrshire Bulls and Glasgow Warriors 'A'. Image: SNS (Image: SNS)

“We’ve got to manage budget. We’ve got to have competitive games – there is no point having games that don’t move our players forward – but we’re confident that there is enough interest out there to get a good level of teams.” 

He hopes in time those ‘A’ fixtures would develop into a league for Edinburgh and Glasgow’s second-string teams to develop more young Scottish talent.  

“We need to work out what other governing bodies and leagues are looking at as well. Some structure would help but the environment will make sure they don’t feel like friendlies.” 

Kellock also said growing Scottish Rugby’s academies would help to further develop players, who will be available for Premiership clubs – as was the way before Super Series.  

Scotland Rugby News: Glasgow Warriors managing director Al KellockGlasgow Warriors managing director Al Kellock (Image: SNS)

He added: “Ireland are exceptionally good at getting their academy players exposed. Their academy goes up to 23, so we need to do more of that as well.” 

Gemmell added that players playing up – such as a club player being given an opportunity by Edinburgh or Glasgow ‘A’ - was a focus in the new set-up, rather than academy players playing down a level in Super Series. 

He added: “We’ve had players playing down a level, and not necessarily playing often enough at the level they should be playing, and limited opportunities to play up. That has to apply to all parts of the model.  

"Someone coming out of an U18 club or school, the likelihood is their first playing opportunity should be in the club game.” 

Kellock added: “Take a tighthead prop for example, their athletic development is best suited in Edinburgh or Glasgow environment, but the rugby development and the games are best suited in the club game.” 

Super Series clubs statement

A statement released on behalf of all the Super Series clubs expressed their disappointment at the move. 

“We, the current Super Series Clubs, are obviously disappointed that the Scottish Rugby Union Club Rugby Board and performance department did not recommend to the Scottish Rugby Limited Board that Super Series continues.

"We do however accept the decision and look forward to competing in the upcoming Sprint Series.

"We were informed of the decision on Wednesday, February 14. We were surprised at the lack of consultation through the process and the detail in what comes next, however, we have confidence in Keith Wallace and Stevie Gemmell delivering a transition plan that sees Super Series clubs supported through what will be a very challenging period.

"We have received assurances that there will not be a detrimental impact on the six clubs as they return their business and rugby models fully back to club rugby”.