Caledonia Reds

Caledonia Reds

Caledonia Reds
Full name Caledonia Reds
Nickname(s) Reds
Founded 1995 (Merged 1998)
Location Aberdeen and Perth

Caledonia Reds were a Scottish rugby union district team who participated in the precursor to the Celtic League and in two seasons of the Heineken Cup. They represented one of four districts of Scotland, covering the North and Midlands (i.e. North of the Firth of Forth).

The district still exists: it does not field a side in the Rabodirect Pro12, but it does have competitive age grade teams in Inter-District Championships. Their home games were shared between Aberdeen and Perth. In 1998, the SRU took the decision to merge the side with Glasgow's team, who today are known as the Glasgow Warriors. Previous Scottish national coach Frank Hadden once held the assistant coaching position with the Caledonia Reds.[1]



In 1995 with the arrival of professionalism in rugby union, the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) realised their existing clubs would not be able to compete in the modern era alongside their English and French counterparts. They decided the best solution would be to create four new franchises based largely on the existing regions of the game. Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Borders. The fourth was created as the Caledonia Reds covering the largest area, North and Central Scotland.

The Reds struggled most out of the new district teams for three main reasons. Demographically, the population was too scattered to support a single team, which was helped by having both Aberdeen and Perth homes. The 90 miles between the two cities meant that the team couldn't create a devoted and central heartland of support. The popularity of football in the area meant the club found it hard to get the numbers of supporters they needed to sustain themselves.

Early success and a glimmer of hope

Even with the doubts over the district's potential, they won the first Inter-District Championship of the Professional era. This came as a great surprise to everyone and there was great hope that this would show when the side was entered into the 1996–97 Heineken Cup. This hope did not come to fruition and the team came out without a win and bottom of their pool, though being involved in some very close scoring matches against teams such as eventual winners Brive. In the next season's competition they started to show potential with some more close-scoring matches but once again failed to qualify for the knockout stages.

Decline and merger

By 1998 the news emerged that the SRU had become laden with over £20 million of debt, largely due to the expensive redevelopment of the national stadium, Murrayfield.

The decision was taken that the continuation of four professional district teams was uneconomical. A plan was drawn up to create two new super-clubs with the mergers of the four existing teams. Edinburgh and the Borders were merged to create the Edinburgh Reivers while the Caledonia Reds and Glasgow were merged to create the Glasgow Caledonian Reds.

Despite the mergers, the new super-clubs conintued to struggle and Glasgow Caledonian Reds, were solely based in Glasgow. The club later dropped the Caledonian element and became simply 'Glasgow Rugby' with this eventually being changed to Glasgow Warriors.

Reds revival

In April 2014, sixteen years after being disbanded, a Caledonia Reds team played a couple of invitation matches.[2]


Playing record

Heineken Cup


Pool 3
Team P W D L TF PF PA +/- Pts
Brive 4 4 0 0 13 106 65 +41 8
Harlequins 4 3 0 1 20 131 95 +36 6
Neath 4 2 0 2 10 83 109 -26 4
Ulster 4 1 0 3 6 75 87 -12 2
Caledonia Reds 4 0 0 4 13 117 156 -39 0
Caledonia 34–41 Ulster
McDiarmid Park
Attendance: 2,400

Neath 27–18 Caledonia
The Gnoll
Attendance: 2,000

Caledonia 30–32 Brive
McDiarmid Park
Attendance: 2,000

Harlequins 56–35 Caledonia
Twickenham Stoop
Attendance: 3,751


Pool 5
Team P W D L TF PF PA +/- Pts
Pau 6 4 0 2 27 203 89 +114 8
Llanelli 6 4 0 2 15 144 142 +2 8
Benetton Treviso 6 2 0 4 18 146 162 −16 4
Caledonia Reds 6 2 0 4 8 89 189 −100 4
Caledonia 18 – 23 Llanelli Scarlets
McDiarmid Park
Attendance: 2,300

Caledonia 17 – 9 Benetton Treviso
McDiarmid Park
Attendance: 2,000

Pau 50 – 28 Caledonia
Stade Municipal du Hameau
Attendance: 6,500

Benetton Treviso 52 – 6 Caledonia
Stadio Comunale di Monigo
Attendance: 3,500

Caledonia 30 – 24 Pau
McDiarmid Park
Attendance: 3,000

Llanelli 31 – 10 Caledonia
Stradey Park
Attendance: 3,000

Scottish Inter-District Championship

1996 - 1997

Caledonia's first and only title in their first 43 years came in their first championship under the current form. Caledonia Reds, The Borders and Glasgow qualified for the Heineken Cup for the next season.

Team P W D L PF PA +/- Pts
Caledonia Reds 3 2 1 0 77 53 +24 5
Glasgow 3 2 0 1 63 51 +12 4
Scottish Borders 3 1 1 1 59 61 -2 3
Edinburgh 3 0 0 3 35 69 -34 0
22 December 1996
Scottish Borders 26 – 26 Caledonia Reds
Murrayfield Stadium
Referee: R Megson
22 December 1996
Glasgow 23 – 13 Edinburgh
Murrayfield Stadium
Referee: K McCartney

29 December 1996
Edinburgh 13 – 31 Caledonia Reds
Murrayfield Stadium
Referee: E Murray
29 December 1996
Scottish Borders 18 – 26 Glasgow
Murrayfield Stadium
Referee: J Fleming

5 January 1997
Scottish Borders 15 – 9 Edinburgh
Poynder Park
Referee: S Piercy
5 January 1997
Caledonia Reds 20 – 14 Glasgow
Murrayfield Stadium
Referee: I Ramage

Potential revival

The effects of the merger were disappointing as the two superclubs underperformed against Welsh and Irish sides, and the expected boost in attendances from the merger did not immediately materialise. The Edinburgh and Glasgow clubs dropped their merged identities and reverted to their previous names, while in 2002 the Border Reivers were revived before folding again in 2007. The decision to revive the Borders rather than Caledonia side was attacked by former Reds coach Robin Lind who said "We’ve got bigger companies, more schools than the Borders, and just as much identity as the Borders, so why are we not getting a team?”. A SRU official responded "I agree that there is vibrancy here, and I think Caledonia should have a pro team as soon as possible – every youngster in Scotland should be able to go and see pro rugby being played in their area. [But] there has to be money spent before that happens, and that would include facilities and pitches."[3]

It has been a long-standing ambition of the SRU to re-expand to four teams again, which would give Scotland equal representation with the Irish and Welsh in the Magners League. When Caledonia Red was originally merged with Glasgow in 1998, the SRU claimed that it would be revived in some form when more funds were available. This remains unlikely until the SRU's finances improve. In recent years the SRU has shown more interest in expanding into England, and making London Scottish its third member of the Celtic League than restarting one of the existing regions in Scotland, particularly in the north where the roots are not as deep.

In spite of this there is a small but vocal group of rugby supporters of the former Caledonia region who still lobby for a return of the team, with some calling for them to play their matches at Pittodrie the stadium of Aberdeen. In 2005 the new SRU President Andy Irvine claimed he wanted a professional team established in Aberdeen within three years, although nothing subsequently became of it.[4]

On several occasions details have surfaced of attempts to establish a professional rugby union club in the Caledonia district. A notable incident was one of Graham Burgess, "and his consortium". Burgess was said to have held, "talks" with the SRU in April and May 2007. Plans were said to centre on founding a team in Stirling playing at Forthbank Stadium.[5] However plans drew criticism from some as Burgess was suspected of merely wishing to relocate Glasgow Warriors or the doomed Border Reivers. Dialogue failed to produce anything substantive and no further action was taken;[6] Burgess later died in September 2011.[7] In the month of November 2007 reports emerged of a consortium looking to establish an 'Aberdeen pro team', and the SRU asked Aberdeen F.C. about using Pittodrie. The bid was later rejected. In May 2012, the Chairman of the SRU, Sir Moir Lochead, declared that "the Irish model is what we are trying to replicate now".[8] This renewed hope for a return of the 4 Scottish Districts of the early professional years, to compare with the 4 provinces of the Irish model.

Notable former players

Former staff


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External links

  • Caledonia Reds (on Tumbler)