When Adam Pattinson arrived in Scotland in the summer of 2019, his mission was to take the game to the masses.

The 28-year-old Australian flanker, who has made over 100 appearances for the Wallabies, is currently taking part in a pre-season tournament in the country, known as the Shinty-Cardiff Shinty Festival. The tourney pits teams from the North and the South of Scotland against each other, and sees players from both codes competing. The tournament is mainly for fun, with players taking it in their stride, but it also provides a great insight into the culture of Scottish and Irish rugby.

Pioneering Work In The Country

In the 12 months since he arrived in Scotland, Adam has been busy establishing how he wants his new life to pan out. One of his first moves was to set up a rugby club for aspiring players in his home town of Perth, which was initially called the Adam Pattinson Australian College of Physical Education (APAC).

In April 2019, the Western Force player took a major step towards mainstream rugby in Scotland, when he made a one-off switch to play professionally for the Scottish side, Glasgow Warriors. Although he is contracted to play in Japan till the end of 2021, Adam has been eager to take on a new challenge, and has already established himself as a fans’ favourite.

In July 2019, it was announced that the Australian Rugby Football League (ARFL) had extended an official welcome to Scottish Rugby Union (SRU), and that there was huge potential for both codes to forge a strong relationship in the country.

“We’re really happy to have the opportunity to establish a lasting relationship with the ARFL, particularly given the similarities in our codes and the fact we share the same professional aspirations,” said Graham Moule, chief executive of the SRU. “The Shinty-Cardiff Shinty Festival is a great example of what can happen when professional sportspeople of different codes come together. It’s something we hope to see more of in our country.”

“It’s great to be back in Scotland and playing for the Warriors. It’s also great to see how much interest there is in the game here,” said Adam. “Glasgow is a great city and I’m looking forward to meeting the fans.”

Schenectady-Inspired Approach

Before arriving in Scotland, Adam spent time in New York, where he was participating in the MLSsoccer World Cup. While the competition was on, he would go into the office kitchen and cook the players’ meals. It was during one of these halts that he came up with an idea that would revolutionise the way people look at rugby in Scotland. While the tournament was going on, he would often put in long days at work. One of his teammates, Kevin van Veen, would often drive him into work each morning, since Adam’s workplace, Schenectady FC, did not provide a free parking space.

In the autumn of 2019, van Veen was working with coach Greg Lamont on contract at the Australian Sports Commission, and during a training session in Sydney, the pair came up with an idea to bring the World Cup to Scotland. The pair were insistent that Scotland could do it, and made the case to Lamont’s boss, the commission’s senior manager of sport, Scott Morris.

“We’ve got all these great players who are bursting to go, and we need a way to showcase their talents,” said van Veen. “I think it’s a great idea and one that could be transformational for Scottish rugby.”

The idea to have a World Cup in Scotland was met with enthusiastic support from everyone in the organisation. It provided a perfect opportunity to put the country on the sporting map, and open up a whole new market for Scottish Rugby Union.

“This is a real coup for Scotland,” said Morris. “It’s great to have a competition where Scottish and Aussie teams can compete for international recognition.”

The Impact Of The Tournament

The tournament has been going since 2004, and has always attracted strong support from fans of both codes in Scotland. The idea behind it is to bring global football and rugby stars to the country, with the likes of Argentina’s Christian Stearne, and Australia’s Tomasi Vuolo turning up to play for the Glasgow side. The tournament also provides a great opportunity for fans to see their favourite players in action, and get to know more about the game. One of the tournament’s organisers, John McGinley, believes the sport can benefit not only from the interest generated by the tournament, but also from the way it brings players together. After all, it is often the smaller tournaments that bring the communities together, and help promote the game across society. The organisers are keen to stress that this is not a World Cup, but a pre-season tournament, and that the interest in the bigger event will not be taken away from it. The same goes for the relationship between the Scottish and Irish codes, which have developed a friendly rivalry, and played some epic games in the past.

A Game For The Masses

The organisers have always sought to get as many people involved as possible, and make sure that the game remains accessible to as many people as possible. One of the ways in which they have done this is by making sure that all tickets are affordable. Even tickets in the lower tier are only £25, which is extremely accessible to most people.

“We want to make sure that everyone can get the opportunity to attend a game,” said McGinley. “It’s great that the work we have done over the years has led to people wanting to see Scottish Rugby succeed, and we’re looking forward to opening up the game to a whole new audience.”

The team behind Scottish Rugby has worked hard to try and ensure that every citizen, whatever their income or status, can afford to follow the game, attend matches, and become involved in the culture. The team has developed a set of core values, and is committed to living by them.

“People can often be discouraged from getting involved in sports, but we need to do everything we can to encourage participation, and rugby is a fantastic vehicle for doing this,” said McGinley.

The game continues to grow in Scotland and across the UK, particularly among the under-40 age group. Last year, 263,400 people went to watch Scottish Premiership football matches, while 211,600 people attended international friendlies and qualifiers. There are also predictions that the game will be back by 2024, after falling by almost 50,000 attendances in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. When asked about the future of the game, van Veen is optimistic, and believes it is ultimately up to the individual.

“Rugby is a game for everyone,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional sportsperson or not, you can always find a team you can support. Hopefully, in the next year or so, we’ll see more and more people getting involved in the game.”