Grammar chairman Mike Cox thinks being without a north-east Super Six side will preserve the “status quo”.
The Rubislaw club are not giving up on being involved when a mooted expansion of the Scottish Rugby Union’s (SRU) new semi-professional league happens in a few years, but Cox says entry now was “not feasible” for the National 1 side.
The aim of the Super Six is to create a better pathway for talented young players from the amateur game to the professional and national ranks, while stamping out player payments which have created inequality in the Scottish club game.
It is hoped that while amateur players stay with for their local team instead of chasing wages elsewhere, youngsters who are part of the SRU’s academy – whose Caledonia outpost is at the University of Aberdeen – can be funnelled upwards, through the Super Six and higher.
Despite seeing the Super Six, and these wider “Agenda Three” goals as a “good thing”, Cox believes the self-perpetuating talent drain in the north-east will carry on until the area has a representative in the new competition.
He said: “It’s catastrophic for rugby up here. I’ve gone on record saying we need one up here and the SRU know that.
“Currently what happens is talented players go to Stirling County or Edinburgh and Glasgow, and that’s just going to continue happening.
“Any ambitious players are not going to go to university in Aberdeen and any talented players up here are going to move to Edinburgh and Glasgow. Which is the status quo.
“If it was in Dundee it wouldn’t be so bad, but travelling to Stirling three time a week, they’d rather just move.”
Playing talent in the north-east has also dropped as university players are no longer coming for work due to the oil and gas downturn.
This week, the SRU confirmed the Super Six franchises will go to Boroughmuir, Heriots, Watsonians, Melrose, Ayr and,the most northerly participant, Stirling County.
Bidders who missed out on the competition, which starts from 2019/20, included Dundee and Glasgow Hawks.
Grammar have been open about the fact it wasn’t currently feasible for them to apply to be in the Super Six.
Cox said: “Financially it just didn’t stack up, that was the main issue.
“It would be great to have one in the north-east, it’s crucial there is one, but at this point there was no point submitting a bid that would fail.
“Glasgow Hawks would have submitted a really strong bid, but they weren’t selected.”
Cox said being in the Super Six would have increased costs, which are already a burden, and the club only have “five or six” players of the standard needed at the moment.
This would mean “bussing up” players for training two or three times a week, plus games, because there isn’t a talent pool up here.
Or, perhaps less feasible, was the idea of encouraging school-age academy players to apply to move to the north-east for university.
Finances and talent pool aside, the fact Grammar don’t own their ground or clubhouse – and that potential revenue stream – is a limiting factor.
If the Super Six expands in the future, Cox said the club would need more help from the SRU.
Grammar previously admitted the current difference they’d need to make up is £250,000 per year – the SRU is already pledging around £140,000 per year to Super Six clubs.
The oil and gas downturn has hit not only player numbers but sponsorship levels.
One silver lining Cox sees for Grammar is that if they can finish high in National 1 next term, they will go into the new Scottish Championship, the amateur game’s highest tier under the new system.
The Championship will comprise National 1 and Premiership sides who haven’t moved into the Super Six.
Cox said: “Hopefully the Super Six and Agenda Three will level the playing field through the leagues.
“Once everyone’s back playing for their local clubs and there’s no players moving around for cash, things should even out.
“There’s no reason we can’t challenge at the top end of amateur rugby. We’re competitive in National 1.
“We’re in the top 12 clubs in Scotland if you take the Super Six teams out of it. There are teams in our league – Edinburgh Accies and Jed-Forest, who openly pay players and we’re competing against them.
“We need to finish high up in the league next year to make sure we don’t get knocked down by all the teams who are coming down.”