RUGBY coaches are furious after a top Scottish club told them kids would be charged to act as cheerleaders at the start of games.
Edinburgh Rugby, one of only two professional teams north of the border, is demanding primary age children pay £5 to hold guards of honour at Murrayfield Stadium.
Youngsters are being charged a further £6.50 for hot food on the day by Edinburgh Rugby, which is owned by the national governing body the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU).
Douglas Cross, president of the RHC Cougars rugby club, based in the Costorphine area of Edinburgh, warned that the charge could “hinder” the chances of children getting interested in rugby.
He said: “My first reaction is it’s a bit of a shame.
“I can’t understand why they would do such a thing. I think it’s a shambles, to be honest.
“It’s a one-off experience. The Edinburgh part of the SRU is to spread the game and all they can think of is how much money they can make on it?
“How many kids? Twenty a week? That’s £100 a week. It’s another example of the SRU getting things wrong.
“Will this help or hinder kids coming into rugby? It will hinder it.”
Another mini-rugby coach, who did not wish to be named, said: ““We couldn’t believe it when we received the letter from Murrayfield telling us about these changes”.
“These kids are part of the show and they help to build excitement at games, but now they have to pay to get in.
“Edinburgh should be doing all they can to encourage a new generation of children to start watching rugby.
“They have an enormous stadium to fill, with more than 60,000 empty seats at most of their games, yet they want each one to pay £5 for the privilege of taking part in the entertainment.”
A club spokesman said the new plans cost the same as a match day ticket, and children would also be given souvenirs and allowed to meet players.
He said: “Hundreds of youngsters have already had the chance to form the guard of honour, but we wanted to look at ways in which we can make their experience even better,”
“On top of what we already do, now they will get the chance to meet some of the players and get souvenirs of their day, as well as their match ticket included in what is a nominal cost.”
The charge for food is, according to the club, a response to criticism from parents that children did not get any hot food on match days.
At the SRU’s annual general meeting last month, chief executive Mark Dodson praised the club’s record £44.2m turnover.
“So far seven Edinburgh home matches have been booked with participating clubs and requests are still arriving for other matches.
The club dedicates a huge amount of time and energy to engaging with the local community and creating opportunities to enable young players and families to enjoy watching its league and cup fixtures, including kids for a £1 offers and free entry for children at selected events, among others.”