Scottish rugby’s ambitious new super club set-up could have far-reaching consequences for clubs such as Falkirk.
The SRU recently unveiled plans to franchise six semi-pro elite clubs in an effort to help bridge the gap between amateur and professional.
But there are concerns that the new ‘super clubs’ will take both playing and financial resources away from clubs further down the chain.
Over £3.6 million is being invested in the Super Six structure - due to come in for the 2019-20 season - with clubs playing a 20-match season.
Below that there will be a Scottish Championship and a new three-division National League structure, all of which will contain wholly amateur teams.
Falkirk currently play in National League Division 1, one level below the existing Premiership.
But club president Matt Dodd told Herald Sport: “I think it’s going to have quite a dramatic effect on the whole of Scottish rugby.
“Any player with any ambition now is going to be directed towards these six super clubs.
“For clubs like Falkirk, we do rely to a great extent on club loyalty but these young lads are going to get drawn there and are likely to get coached there as well
“They have also got to maintain a squad of 35 players, that’s taking over 200 players who will be semi-pro.
“You’ve got to ask is where are these players going to come from? The only thing that can happen is that clubs below them are going to get raided and severely depleted.
“Falkirk are quite fortunate because we’ve got a pretty decent league status at the moment, but this year we’ve lost a number of players who have had two or three very good seasons and this has not gone unnoticed by teams in the Premiership.
“It is constant battle trying to recruit, retain and develop players within the club structure.”
Matt is also concerned that the new structure might divert much-needed financial resources away from local, community-based clubs.
He said: “It’s being presented as a semi-professional league which will run at the same time as the other leagues.
“By running against the existing clubs they may well take away some of the available sponsorship, they might even entice some of the crowds who go to watch the club game as it is just now.
“To some extent it will be even more competition for the rugby clubs that exist at the moment. I think there’s still quite a lot of dialogue that needs to go on to get it in a fit and proper state that will suit all of Scottish rugby.
“I can see the need for a semi-professional league to be that buffer between the amateur game and the fully professional game. Whether this is the way I’m not 100 per cent.
“There are a few models out there which you could try to mirror. New Zealand for example have a 10-region league which exists on a semi-pro basis.
“But it operates as a short-lived league at the end of the normal club season, so that players who perform well in that club season then get selected to play.
“At £65,000 per club for five years it is a considerable investment by the SRU but I would hate to think that investment is going to be to the detriment of investment into the lower, amateur leagues. These basically are your roots.
“Where there’s money players tend to be a bit more mercenary and you might lose some of that club spirit or community aspect if you’ve just got guys coming in, playing for a wee bit and then off they go to whoever’s paying the most. It’s a difficult situation.”