AGM motion calls for review of Murrayfield’s in-house legal function

The motion has been proposed by Haddington and seconded by Currie

Robert Howat, Scottish Rugby's General Counsel and Company Secretary, is head of Murrayfield's legal department. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Robert Howat, Scottish Rugby's General Counsel and Company Secretary, is head of Murrayfield's legal department. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

A MOTION calling on the Scottish Rugby Union’s Council to review the in-house legal and secretarial function of the Union and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Scottish Rugby Union Limited, will be tabled at August’s Annual General Meeting of the governing body.

The backdrop to this is a sense of exasperation amongst a considerable number of clubs about the way the game is being managed by the paid executives at Murrayfield, and their belief that transparency and accountability consistently falls below the levels required for the good corporate governance of a sporting governing body.

The motion, which has been proposed by Haddington RFC and seconded by Currie RFC Ltd, states:

That the Scottish Rugby Council shall convene a review of the efficacy, efficiency and propriety of the in-house legal and Secretarial function of the Scottish Rugby Union and Scottish Rugby Union Limited (“Scottish Rugby”), which shall include consideration of the relative advantages and disadvantages of continuing such functions in-house when compared with outsourcing to a third party or third parties, in part or in whole.

The review shall also consider the potential for conflict to exist between the Union and Scottish Rugby in a manner which compromises the same individual holding the Secretarial position in each entity, and in-house Scottish Rugby lawyers advising both entities.

Following such review Council will use their powers under the Bye-Laws to make any necessary changes, including if necessary bringing a motion, or motions, to a general meeting or instructing the Trustees.

Rationale

This motion follows a longstanding involvement of the in-house legal and Secretarial function in matters where the needs and wishes of the members appear not to have been served, and/or the reputation of the Scottish Rugby Union has been negatively impacted on.

These include recently and inter alia:

  • Prior to the 2020 AGM2, Scottish Rugby issued a partisan Guidance Note in an apparent attempt to defeat two motions brought by member clubs. Following its release, Council had to meet in emergency session and issue clarification that though the note purported to state Council’s position, it did not. The motions were overwhelmingly supported.
  • Prior to the SGM which followed 2020 AGM2, another Guidance Note was issued to clubs which released selectively, and again in a partisan manner, only some of the results of a “consultation” with clubs, a consultation which asked different questions of different recipients, a consultation the results of which had previously been declared confidential.
  • In the promotion of the Gammell Murray Review by Scottish Rugby, (subsequently overwhelmingly rejected by member clubs) a question and answer from external lawyers was posted on the Scottish Rugby website, which suggested that the Union and Scottish Rugby could end up in court to determine which entity held power. In these circumstances lawyers employed by one entity cannot possibly advise the other. (NB at point of writing this document is still on the website, suggesting that the advice provided is still current).
  • In the contentious matter of Executive pay and bonuses, it became clear that either Board members were fully aware of the details and condoned them or they were not sufficiently informed either of the payment details or their fiduciary duty. This raises questions about the roles, actions and conflicts of interest of the in-house legal team.

These examples illustrate a persisting pattern of shortcomings in serving members with consequential damage to reputation, by what is effectively the members civil service operated by Scottish Rugby at Murrayfield.

As previously reported, two other motions will also be voted on at the AGM. The first is to replace Super6 with an inter-district championship. The second calls for full transparency with regard to how the Scottish Government’s recent £20m Covid bail-out for rugby is spent.


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About David Barnes 2991 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

3 Comments

  1. Commendable proposal.

    Good to note that some clubs are adopting aspects of the “alternative plan” presented elsewhere on TOL and other places….

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  2. Ouch!
    The mere fact this motion has had to be raised says a lot about the current culture pervading our sport and the lack of confidence and trust in the way the Governing Body is executing its business. Clarity, transparency and truly open communication would create a breath of fresh air for the future of rugby in Scotland.

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