Gala have won the Booker Border League for the fourth time in five years but the presentation planned for after the match against Jed-Forest on Wednesday couldn’t take place after Jed-Forest pulled out of the fixture.
This follows Kelso’s withdrawal from the tournament a few weeks ago, and Hawick pulling out of a game against Jed-Forest.
It was a sad ending to the world’s oldest league, as yet again the Border League ended without all the fixtures being played.
One can fully understand the positions of the clubs who withdrew. For Kelso, there was nothing to play for and their National League 1 season had ended.
There was no incentive for their players to take part. Hawick could not field a front row for their match, while Jed-Forest’s key players have helped their club to the top of the Kings of the 7s table in the middle of two double weekends, and while they could still mathematically win the Border League (by beating Gala by over 46 points) this was hardly a result that was ever going to happen.
Why would they jeopardise the Kings of the 7s title to play a midweek game like this?
Bad weather and fixture congestion of course was always going to make life difficult to complete the games in the Border League, but surely now, the structure of the Border League has to be looked at with the possibility of pre-season games a much better option.
Returning to a pool system and a final makes sense, with three weekends during pre-season giving all teams the chance to complete their three pool games, with a midweek final taking place between the top two clubs from each pool sometime before the end of the year. It would be short and intense but exciting.
The credibility of the Border League is at stake and it must have a beginning, middle and end.
Playing out a tournament at the start of the season would ensure the league’s sponsor gets value for money, and with no other competitive rugby at that time, the media would give it unprecedented coverage including TV.
That is just one possible solution, but the Border League clubs have to sit down and sort this problem out.
The Border League does not like to be criticised as I know only too well, whether it is constructive criticism or not. But they have to listen and act to fix something that is clearly broken.