A Rebirth of Scottish Rugby

Scottish rugby 2

Recently Scottish rugby has been giving their fans reason to be excited. Following a promising set of performances in the annual Autumn Internationals and Guinness Six Nations, the country is completely backing the boys in blue to perform well later this year in the World Cup – this has not always been the case, however. In the recent past, the team were a disappointment to their nation.

In 2014, Scottish rugby was in a rut – the team lost all but one game in that year’s 6 Nations. Their turnover for that year was £40 million which was weak compared to England’s massive £153 million. They also had to deal with a rise in their debt up to £11 million. The team was failing and needed to find their soul according to the BBC. These disappointing results on the field were reflected off the field as well. The BBC relayed that the number of players in the amateur game was down at a poor 15,000 compared to the 166,000 South of the border. It was also claimed that it was “really, really difficult to get kids involved now”. Finally, there was criticism of the youth system as it was claimed that “talented kids are missing out” and that better academies needed to be put in place and executed properly to allow significant development of the youth game.

Whereas, at the start of this year, it was reported by Scottish Rugby that they achieved a record turnover of £57.2 million with debt down by £2.8 million. But the record numbers could not have been achieved without the recent sparkling performances of the team. Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Mark Dodson claims: “Rugby in Scotland is enjoying a resurgence at International and Professional level and the support for these teams has never been stronger.”. They brought in £12.3 million from ticket sales alone in the 2018 season with the 67,000-capacity stadium being filled every time the team took the field.

So, how did this happen? A string of strong, competitive performances at the 2015 Rugby World Cup marked the start of a new era for rugby in Scotland. Once more, fans were genuinely interested in backing their nation.

For some, the new look Scottish rugby was found in Glasgow. The Glasgow Warriors have been at the heart of rugby in Glasgow for several years now. Without fail they sell out their home at Scotstoun week in, week out. The dedicated support for their champagne rugby is unquestionable as the community always look forward to a Friday night under the lights in the centre of Glasgow’s west end. The thriving Glasgow men have really catapulted the national team’s performances. At present, the Warriors hold 19 members of the Scotland Squad out of a possible 44. The Glasgow style of rugby has clearly rubbed off on to the national side as they are very open to the idea of being the fastest and fittest team in the world. The brilliant brand of rugby Glasgow has been attempting to play has really spurred on the uptake of youth rugby in Glasgow, especially in the state schools. This club has re-instated a love for rugby amongst many in the city.

These impressive numbers are helping to continuously develop the grassroots game in Scotland as a variety of initiatives have been founded to promote the growth of the traditional game. There have been record levels of investment in the grassroots game recently which have seen the number of male players in Scotland rise dramatically.

The grassroots system has been highly beneficial for the game across Scotland. The club game has grown with more mini rugby sections being formed up and down the country. These improvements have allowed the growth of a bigger pool of talent for the Fosroc Scottish Rugby Academy to pick from. This has led to more young people being offered professional contracts by the two main club rugby bodies.

Alongside the excellent rugby academy system, there are programmes being funded by various charities that are enabling a small number of promising players to develop their game across the world. The most notable is the MacPhail Scholarship which is funded by the Robertson Trust. This programme allows a set of players each year to travel to South Africa to train for five months. This has proved to be a hit in player development with players such as Finn Russell and John Barclay now driving the game forward in the first team after having completed this programme a few years ago. This funding is allowing the youth game to progress in ways it simply could not 5 or 6 years ago. Without the youth game, there is little hope for the future of rugby in Scotland.

However, the future is looking bright for everything rugby in Scotland. The club system has been expanded, the two club sides are performing well in the European competition and the national team are looking forward to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year. The biggest success recently has been the hosting of the annual Guinness Pro 14 final at Celtic Park in May of this year. This event was very popular, with the stadium setting an attendance record on the night of 47,128. This was a great advert for Scottish Rugby as they proved rugby could branch out in Scotland after hosting the first final outside a traditional rugby venue for the first time.

It is evident that the Scotland team is not the same team as it was 5 years ago. They are playing an almost completely unrecognisable brand of rugby and when it works it is a joy to watch. There is a proper interest in the team and the events that Scottish Rugby is hosting are continuing to prove massively beneficial to the Scottish economy. All the supporters can hope for now is a rewarding World Cup campaign and then we can truly say that Scottish Rugby has been completely reborn.

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