Concerns over Scotland RL future as club stands down from league campaign

James Gordon
Scotland fans

Scotland rugby league finds itself at a crossroads after one of its clubs announced its withdrawal ahead of the 2023 season.

Aberdeen Warriors expressed concerns over the governance and financing of the sport in the country, and said it had no choice to stand down from competing until action is taken.

Four board members of Scotland Rugby League resigned from their posts earlier this month, including chair Victoria Hogg.

Directors Ollie Cruickshank, Robert Baxendale and John Harris also departed, in a move that was announced via social media with the comment ‘We now plan ahead with optimism’.

A 42-word advert on board vacancies appeared shortly after, stating an ‘exciting new era’ was starting, but provided no details on the board roles.

Now, Aberdeen Warriors have withdrawn from the Scottish League, which had just four teams in 2022.

A club statement said: “Aberdeen Warriors committee have made the decision to withdraw and not to participate in the Scottish league this year. The decision has not come lightly and has been made on the following reasons.

Funding; The Club is not in the financial position to fully compete in 2023. We have come concerns on the governance of the game and are working with Scotland Rugby League to enable all clubs to play the game safely, but until this is clarified we will not be competing.

Depending on the outcome from questions raised and if funding can be addressed, we may participate in the Scottish Cup in July as a bare minimum for this season. In regards to training we are awaiting confirmation of insurance etc. allowing us to return to train safely until then we are on stop.

“We are not going away and we realise this isn’t the news we were hoping for but, we have to make sure everything is correct and safe to allow the club to participate and to grow the game correctly in the NE of Scotland.”

The other clubs that participated in the Scottish National League last season were Forth Valley Vikings, Glasgow RL and Fife Lions. But the Lions would ultimately forfeit all their games as 24-0 losses.

In the last European Rugby League annual report, it was stated that Scotland had a total of 369 registered participants – including players, coaches and match officials.

The national team played at the World Cup, losing group games against Fiji, Italy and Australia, who beat them 84-0 in Coventry.

There has long been concerns about the funding of the game in Scotland. Shortly after they reached the quarter-finals of the 2013 World Cup, it was announced that the RFL would be withdrawing its funding for the Celtic nations, forcing Scotland RL to let go of development staff.

Under Steve McCormack, the national team punched above its weight – albeit with a reliance on heritage players. In the 2016 Four Nations, they famously drew 18-18 against New Zealand and also drew with Samoa at the 2017 World Cup.

At the end of this year, Scotland are due to take on England, Ireland and Serbia in the European Championships.

Following the withdrawal of France as hosts for the 2025 World Cup, it remains unconfirmed as to whether the Euros will still act as a qualifier for the tournament. Previously, the two best finishers in this year’s European Championships would earn their spot at the 2025 World Cup.

The next two best finishers would go in to the European repechage next year.

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