Scottish Rugby’s newly appointed President, Ian Rankin has expressed his enthusiasm for the new club season at the launch of the BT leagues, which took place at BT Murrayfield Stadium today.
Some 52 playing representatives from Scotland’s national leagues gathered at the national stadium to mark the beginning of what is expected to be another thrilling year of domestic rugby.
The BT Premiership will begin this Saturday (30 August) with the remainder of the men’s and women’s leagues, both national and regional, kicking-off on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 September.
Rankin said: “Everyone I have spoken to over the past week and at the Charity Shield match between Melrose and Heriot’s, last weekend, are clearly looking forward to the new season.
“No matter how many years you are involved in rugby you will never lose the sense of excitement and anticipation that is felt at this time of year. Just seeing all the club colours today is adding to that anticipation.
The clubs are the foundation of our game in Scotland and in recent years, the coaches, players and volunteers have been striving to get better and better and the ambition I have seen is very professional.
Right now everyone thinks they will win their league and I encourage them to go out and keep that dream alive.”
For season 2014-15 the women’s league game will be unchanged with a six team Premier League and National 2 division and an eight team National 1 division.
According to Scottish Rugby’s head of women’s and girls' rugby, Sheila Begbie, the new campaign will be an ideal opportunity to set the foundations for the future of the game in Scotland.
She said: “This is a really exciting time for women’s rugby. We want to create a vision and key milestones with volunteers, players and staff over the coming year for the future of the game.
We want to increase the opportunities and develop the performances of the women’s and girls’ games in Scotland and in order to do that we will build on our relationships with the volunteers and players who are the heart-beat of the game.
“Good luck to all the women’s teams for the start of the season. I look forward to seeing as many matches as I can throughout the year.”
For men’s rugby a new league structure has been implemented. The Premiership will continue with ten teams and with the inclusion of an ambitious play-off, replicating the same format as the Guinness PRO12, while three BT National Leagues will be reinstated with direct promotion and relegation between them.
The Premiership / National League play-off will remain and at the bottom of National 3, three teams will be relegated, making way for the BT Caledonia, East and West regional champions, the following year.
Scottish Rugby’s head of club services, Nick Rennie, said: “I’m very excited about this new season. If this season is half as exciting as the culmination of last year, we’re in for another great campaign.
“This year we have a new sponsor for the domestic game, which has allowed us to put record investment into clubs, notably an additional £100,000 for travel support. Thank you to BT for their support.
With the new league structure in the men’s game, competition will be fierce with everything to play for at the top and bottom of every league and I’m pleased to confirm we will have a grand final in the Premiership, similar to the PRO12, this year.
“Looking back there were some excellent examples of the thrill of the club game in Scotland in 2013-14. For instance Gala and Melrose vying for the Premiership title just four miles away from each other, Marr in a winner-takes-all battle with Cartha Queens Park and RBS West Regional League Division 1 coming down to points difference between Irvine and East Kilbride.
“For those that ended the season with success last year and for those who faced disappointments, all that is behind us now and we have a new and big year ahead of us. I wish all competing teams a successful season.”