AGM: making sure Murrayfield campus delivers to potential is key to Scottish Rugby’s future

Chair John McGuigan says he will canvas far and wide to develop a 10-year strategy for rugby in Scotland

Scottish Rugby Chair John McGuigan and Chief Executive Mark Dodson each spoke at Saturday morning's AGM. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scottish Rugby Chair John McGuigan and Chief Executive Mark Dodson each spoke at Saturday morning's AGM. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

MURRAYFIELD does not need revamped but a plan does need to be developed to ensure that Scottish Rugby’s match-day revenue continues to grow and underpin the business, according to Chief Executive Mark Dodson.

Match-day ticket income has grown 50 percent to £23.7m since 2019, and now accounts for 35 percent of Scottish Rugby’s overall turnover of £67.9m, while a series of high profile concerts in the last financial year also pushed up revenues.

Concern has been expressed that underinvestment in the national stadium during the last decade has left the facility, which was built over 30-years ago, tired, unattractive to modern consumers and unable to maximise its full potential, but Dodson insisted that he and his team are on top of the situation.


AGM: ‘No excuses’ for Scotland’s early World Cup exit but review will be internal

SRU AGM: Chair John McGuigan issues apology to the family of Siobhan Cattigan

Super Series Final: Stirling Wolves stun Ayrshire Bulls to claim glory


“We’re always looking at the ticketing situation, but it has been an engine for growth,” said Dodson. “And if you look at the way people consume entertainment now, whether it’s for Taylor Swift or whether it’s for Bruce Springsteen, if you look at the price of the tickets for major, major events there seems to be no elasticity in it, there is no guide, it keeps going up because the events get bigger and people want to spend their money in that way.

“What we always want to do is have a baseline ticket which people can afford and then we have price points going up from there, but in line with every other country across the rugby playing world we are trying to move the dial on ticketing because it is what pays for everything else. It is one of the levers we can pull to make sure more revenue can be invested in the game.

“It is one of those things we have got to keep a mindful watch on. We have to realise that our competitor set is growing. It is less about what the stadium can offer, it is the number of price points that we can offer. The lack of hospitality here compared to, say, Twickenham or even the Millennium Stadium, reduces our ability to be able to charge more for not just a ticket but price points of a simple meal, a complicated meal, a designer meal, fine dining.

“If we had those levels … and I think you saw at the World Cup where you had 15 to 18 percent hospitality tickets and places … we’ve got to drive that forward. So, in that respect, I think we’ve got to keep an eye on what our offering and proposition is, but if you look at the core aspect of a day at Murrayfield, it is still super-attractive.”

“Capacity is not an issue,” he added. “I think we’ve got plenty of seats. It is what I said before, I need more price points, I need to bring people in who can spend more of their discretionary income not just on their ticket but on dwell time around the stadium, and that’s where we are focussed.

“I think if somebody asked what your preference would be between an 80,000-seater stadium or a 67,000-seater stadium with another 10 to 15 percent hospitality places, it would be the latter.

“We’re about to look at that, we’re about to look at the stadium, what’s going to be redundant in the stadium, what we have to do. There is a conditioning report being done and once that’s there we’ll have to review it with the Board about how we develop the stadium.”

Dodson defended Scottish Rugby’s categorisation of £2.5m expenditure on pro player wages as capital investment in its recent Annual Report, and promised that this cost will reduce in the future.

“That player wages issue was a hike and now it is starting to decline away,” claimed Dodson. “If you have the money we spent on strategic investments like women and the pro teams, we have to capture that outside of operational expenditure.

“[But] we lost three teams in England so 100 players came on the market. It suppressed wages. Before that, wages were climbing inexorably. France is still climbing inexorably with the new TV deal. Japan is climbing inexorably. England is no longer climbing inexorably.

“We have to make sure that we contain the money we spend on players until we can deliver that to ‘operational expenditure’ rather than ‘strategic investments’.”

 

Meanwhile, John McGuigan, who took over as Chair of Scottish Rugby Limited under a new governance system in the summer, explained that a 10-year strategy is being developed to provide the game with its ‘North Star’ which will define all aspects of how the game operates over the next decade.

“The bedrock of rugby is the club and yet the club game faces into some really difficult pressures in the years to come,” he acknowledged. “We’re competing with lots of other sports, we’ve got a narrative at times that might pose questions for parents on whether rugby is the right sport for their children to enter, we rely on a huge voluntary commitment from people, and we’ve also got an increased pressure on finances [in terms of] the cost of getting stuff done. I know from going round different clubs that these pressures are very evident on a day-to-day basis. So, I’d like to say thank you for everyone who does volunteer, everyone who plays and encourages rugby to take place at a local level, and the contribution that makes to every other aspect of the game.

“People shout quite loudly at me, particularly on social media, about ‘do I hear that message?’ Can I just confirm that I very much do, I take it very seriously and I will spend time in the future working through how we continue to support and play our part in making sure we have a strong foundation for every other aspect of the game.

“Another area that is really important because it is the definition of how we make sure in the eyes of others that rugby is successful, is how we develop talent and we know we’ve got work to do there. It is very much at the top end of my priority list, to make sure we develop talent at all levels of the game, to ensure that those who have got the most talent get the opportunity to represent Scotland, and all that brings including the financial benefits to the rest of the game.”

“We’re going to write a 10 year strategy for the game based on what we see in other sports and what we see happening across the world. We’re going to engage as many people as we can because we want common ownership. I want us to be in a place where we can all sit down and explain why we think this is the strategy for Scotland. It’s our North Star and it will define our operating plan, our budget, our organisational structure and the types of people we need to employ in the future in order to make sure Scottish rugby continues to be a fantastic sport and one we can be proud of.

“So, just to finish, if I haven’t been to your club – and I haven’t been to as many clubs as I would like to have been – can you please invite me? I’m happy to come along and hear your perspective in terms of how we as the SRL Board should continue to do our part in growing the game.”


AGM: ‘No excuses’ for Scotland’s early World Cup exit but review will be internal

About David Barnes 3820 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.

33 Comments

  1. Think they’re talking bands and DJs etc like other sporting events. No bad thing and tents are cheap. Or should that be marrquees..Less sure about more suites but don’t know the big corporate market. SME entertaining tends to be restaurants in town but can be fickle. In the past the game was often the worst part of the day out for guests, serving mainly to break up the drinking. Different now with Finn & co there but for how long? Lot of pressure on him and Sweet Caroline to deliver the joy but life will go on…..which leads us back to the club game being the lifeblood. Everyone needs to save face so let’s assume s6 has served a purpose and experience can be used to good effect in reintegration to a properly funded traditional structure.

  2. My philosophy on Scotland match days is to spend as little dwell-time as possible at the stadium.

    Why stand in the freezing cold, juggling a burger and a pint with nowhere to sit or even rest your food and drink, when you can get the same in a nice comfy, cosy bar or restaurant in the centre of town for more or less the same price? It is a complete no-brainer.

    The only thing that would make me want to hang around the stadium outside of game time is if there is another match showing but, even then, it can be a pretty miserable experience in the Autumn and Winter (when, other than world cup years, all our home matches are played).

    Different for Edinburgh matches when ‘The Clubhouse’ is available for anyone to go and sit down for food and drink inside (and there is usually another URC game to watch before or after).

    If Scottish Rugby think they can increase revenues by trying to entice people to stay longer and spend more, I suspect they are in for a shock. And the idea of letting non-ticketholders into the estate to ‘enjoy’ over-priced food and beverages will only make the experience of those who are there for the game even less comfortable.

    UNLESS they are looking at a radical reconfiguration and upgrade of facilities within the estate (and I struggle to even imagine what that could be), these ideas are a non-starter and suggests that those on the board have no comprehension of what a dreadful offering they provide their ordinary patrons on match days.

    One thing you can currently rely on is that the team will try and play entertaining rugby but there is a danger that that baby might be thrown out with the bath water in pursuit of more tangible success. And if the team falls between those two stools, then all bets are off.

    I understand this is not easy but we are being asked to back a financial strategy that seems entirely dependent on the weather not being bad enough to keep people away from the stadium. Seems the most prudent thing they could do is to lobby for the 6Ns to be played in April/May instead of February/March.

    I expect a wee bit more from people who are so handsomely remunerated.

    • The good thing about others comments it works as a catalyst because somebody else makes a good point and you did with the ‘why hang about’ that made me think back and whether Twickenham, Cardiff, Dublin or Murrayfield, we all headed back to our Clubs or the Clubs we were visiting for the Morning of the Game fixture, so even forgetting the probability that the food is probably overpriced crud and the beer is short measure in a plastic container, what’s the point of hanging about watching the Hospitality freebies up in the warm?

  3. The first comment I would make: regarding the last 4 words of RodB’s contribution in his first sentence, it reminded me of the fact that Dodson certainly costs serious money and I am yet to be convinced that it is justified. Reasonable points made RodB but I’m not sure, I fear it is just another way of spending money the SRU doesn’t have, it might even be their way of diverting the investigation of the financial loss with some creative accounting further down the line.
    Perhaps I missed the ‘cost factor’ for increasing the Hospitality packages, however wouldn’t it be a prospect to increase the cost of the existing Hospitality [on the basis of Companies can afford it more than we can] and see if that improves income [you can always bring the cost back with that ‘special deal for you Pal’ method of selling the space, surely better than the cost of creating more Hospitality availability and not have it filled? To me it’s buying a £1 with a Fiver.
    Put the price up with the existing packages, if that doesn’t work then go to plan B, build more [or not] and offer it at a competitive rate, Tesco and Lidl sales principles lower the price and sell the volume.
    However there are more pertinent aspects to expenditure and that is the Grass roots and ensuring an increased participation and a ‘realistic’ path to the Jersey. If that is not addressed I wouldn’t worry too much about bringing Murrayfield down to 60,000 capacity because our player base will shrink and so will support, especially if we have the ignominy should they bring in a 6N with relegation, and what is the point of filling the gaps with residency players. Not that I belittle the players we have at the moment but if there were superior players coming through the system [sic] offering competition to those that leave their sunny uplands to enjoy the Midges, would that not be a better option?
    As ever other views are available but it seems to me that the first thought about increasing ‘revenue’ by spending money we obviously have to borrow is that it is the ‘simple’ way of pretending you are doing something, doing something would be making a profit with what we have.

    • To be fair looking at his remuneration package it has proved very successful for him over the years so he is unlikely to change.

      For those who love Scottish rugby his plan is of course a disaster.

  4. You want the best teams, the best players the best coaches but no-one wants to face up to the fact they cost serious money. I think what Dodson is saying is not increase all ticket prices but if we reduce the capacity to say 60,000 and use that space for hospitality we could treble or quadruple the income from that area of the staduim giving us the funds to attract the players fund youth development, help fund a better local coaching structure and create a better pipeline of talent. We are competing with many other sports not just football and if the competition has more funds we will lose. Money is key and hospitality like it or loathe it is key to that money.

    4
    8
    • RodB, whether or not we wish to properly fund some of your suggestions comes down to priorities. Spending net £15m on Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh inevitably takes money away from other areas of the game. We don’t need to increase hospitality places to put more funding into youth development or improving the pipeline.

      8
      2
      • No doubt we need more money into youth and grass roots. But are we really targeting the budgets for the pro-sides to fund it?

        Does anybody want to see Edinburgh and Glasgow go the way of the Welsh regions? Can’t see that as being in the interests of Scottish rugby.

        6
        1
    • Do Ireland have more money than we have? Or do they just spend it wisely, I don’t want to give a hard time to other ideas but that’s an initial thought.

      • They spend much less on their CEO and foreign imports. Leaves cash for local players development which drives interest and organically creates revenue at all levels. Each club has a proper development officer assigned them with clear KPIs.

      • ‘Rugby Fan’

        Yes i’m sure the Irish teams are spending less on foreign imports than us… just so your aware of some of the players across the 4 teams (mostly current)

        Steven Kitsoff
        Michael Alaalato
        Stuart Lancaster
        Jack Neinaber
        Duane Vermulemen
        Damian De Allende
        Malakai Fekitoa
        Jamieson-Gibson Park
        James Lowe
        Bundi Aki
        Charlie Ngatai
        RG Snyman
        Antoine Frisch
        Alex Nankivell
        Dave Ewers
        Finlay Bealham
        Jarrad Butler
        Joe Joyce
        Santiago Cordero

        I have a suspicion just a few of those players have cost more than our entire foreign player costs.

        2
        3
  5. My god, this man is a parasite sucking the life blood of Scottish rugby!
    The corporate language made me think of BS bingo. Was he playing with his mates?
    “North Star….”
    “Move the dial on …” 🤮

    He missed “moving the goal posts” and win-win” surely more obvious at a Rugby meeting, but equally vomit inducing.

    More price points and more hospitality?
    That’s his solution?

    Please!

    12
    6
  6. I liked the suggestion from Dom Ward that a ‘Glossary’ of Dodson speak be issued, the moment I see, for instance, ‘Dwell time’ my immediate thought is BS for ‘hang about the Stadium for debatable cuisine and short measure beers in plastic, or Suits in Hospitality ‘Buttering’ up their Punters.
    I wondered to myself, what did I pay for International tickets back in the day? Couldn’t remember, put the question into ‘Search’ and up came a photo, ticket Murrayfield March 15 1980 –v- England D93 or B76 for £2. Two Pounds!
    Of course there is inflation but we didn’t have some Loon screaming over the Tannoy, or a couple of Warbler’s telling us they would walk the length of the Country for some reason that always escaped me, or as has been observed ‘Braveheart’ Extra’s or Pyrotechnics: all rather pointless in my estimation, but there again I’m only interested in the game and not supporting peripheries or ‘Dwell time’ I was/am satisfied with a few beers with my pals before and after the game, I can survive during the game without a beer providing I’ve my Flask of Tamnavulin [other Malts available] and the ability to talk about the game with my pals without risking damage to my Larynx for obvious previously mentioned reasons.
    Mind you those are hypothetical thoughts because frankly I can’t justify a £100 or more for a ticket, note justify not afford, but what about those that can’t afford to get into the ground?
    One thing I am certain of is the individual with the same responsibility for the £2 ticket in 1980 who held a position that Dodson holds today didn’t pocket a couple of Chip Suppers short of £700k.

    32
    6
    • Well said George.I’ve always wondered about ticket inflation but simply couldn’t remember what we paid “back in the day”.So I looked on the internet and found a copy of a terracing ticket for the famous BaaBaa’s v All Blacks in 1973 which was ten bob (aka 50p intoday’s speak).Ok you the have to factor in inflation so probably about £5 in today’s money. Your 1980 ticket probably equates to about £15.
      Sowhy the difference.Not comparing apples and oranges but remeber this is the cost of proffessionalism-we now have to pay the players and coaches.But also staff numbers at HQ will have risen hugely.I always thought John Law (the SRU “Secretary” in those days pretty well ran the whole show with a typist and groundsman but obviously not quite tue.Now they employ hundreds there-and our ticket prices pay for them.
      But yes the cost of a ticket getting out of hand before you factor in travel,food and drink.

      11
      2
      • If I still lived in London the cost of transport would mean almost certainly driving up and with no relatives left back home accommodation required add Dom Ward’s £100 Silver ticket and I would be looking at the thick end of £500 for my son and myself.
        Some months back I noticed a name of one of the Club Coaches and emailed enquiring if he was related to a player I knew from my playing days and sure enough he was. Now I would rather save the £200 and ask if we could ‘Guest’ at his Rugby Club and view the match on the Box, and I’m sure the answer would be ‘of course, your welcome’, it would probably be more enjoyable anyway.
        By the way 2006 versus Barbarians E14 Seat D23 – £5, ok it was a Wednesday 7.30pm fixture but still, a Fiver!

  7. Reads like financial focus will be on sweating the assets at the expense of those who just want to go and watch a match of rugby. With more hospitality tickets there will be fewer seats for club members. Sounds like a recipe for alienating the sport’s base. I have no interest in spending a whole day at the ground where food quality is poor and prices exorbitant.

    21
  8. Dodson knows the cost of everything (in particular himself and his cronies) and the value of absolutely nothing.

    19
    2
    • “reduces our ability to be able to charge more for not just a ticket but price points of a simple meal, a complicated meal, a designer meal, fine dining.”

      A brazen admission that their core business plan is to price gouge fans. As for basic fare, they already charge through the nose for canteen garbage.

      On the question of ticket inflation; my first game was v Wales in 1995. £22.50 for the ticket, which would cost around £100 today in the same seats. If the price followed inflation it would have been £44.20.

      I stopped going years ago. It’s an awful day out that costs the same as a weekend citybreak including flights. A clichéd, unimaginative, Brigadoon fest.

      15
      1
  9. Used to never miss an international in my youth .
    Nowadays with a family of four
    A whole day at an International is way out of reach .
    The normal supporter is priced out of it for the Corporates .
    many of whom wouldn’t know the shape of a rugby ball
    I’m not the only one with this view

    35
  10. Seems we need to get a glossary of terms provided at each AGM so that we can understand what definitions of the words used mean.

    Where did the revamp comment come from? Indeed where did the increased capacity call come from??

    It’s obvious that ticket revenue growth has been by price increase. Yes we have full houses and that great but there are pitfalls in this strategy. We have 2 home 6N matches next year not 3. World Cup years are typically challenging due to increased costs v lack of autumn tests but that will be offset by the warm up games.

    It’s not as if Scottish Rugby is unique here. All sports are trying to maximise cash take from spectators. How that translates into spending 7-8 hours around a stadium taking in what ever entertainment is on offer plus food and drink is never explained.

    One of those sounds great on a PowerPoint presentation but quickly hits reality – silver ticket for England 2024 £100. Transport to stadium from whichever part of scotland you come from. It’s a 4.45pm kick off so arrive at stadium at 1/2pm to mill around the various stalls selling overpriced food and drink (£6 a bottle I recall). On the outside of the stadium. Hopefully it’s sunny! Do that till 4pm when you take your seat. Half time drinks & food. Retire to further stalls and drinks where you spent the afternoon for more of same. Leave 8/9pm.

    That requires a level of stamina both physical and financial that will be beyond the average fan. Now for those in the heated seats and hospitality not so much on the basis they are unlikely to be paying for it themselves.

    23
  11. What about an 80,000 seater with 15% hospitality? Why not have both – the place is massive. Could have an even higher capacity if we wanted.

    We’re only constrained by our levels of imagination and ambition. Build it and they will come.

    7
    2
  12. It does seem strange that you extend GT’S contract before the WC , presumably on an increased salary, so that you either can’t afford to part company with him or have to fork out increased compensation, should you decide to part company with him, following a proper review of the WC performances of players and, more pertinently, the coaching team.

    We delude ourselves if we ever think we will be world beaters, but flaws in tactics and the inability to analyse and implement live game necessary changes in tactics, performances, competitiveness, selection and man management, have been recurring themes and flaws during GT’S reign. I’m sure we all remember Twickenham-gate and the draw when the players seemed to tear up the pre-game tactics; Drinks-gate; Hogg-gate; Russell-gate ; Stand Off-gate and Kinghorn-gate, to name a few.

    If the SRU want us to pay inflated prices, we are entitled to see streetwise competitive performances at the very least and build up confidence in the well paid coaching team.

    16
    2
  13. did we get an answer to the question of why redundancy payments were necessary when the staff numbers are growing

    • No! Ms Spence did say that was an exceptional cost and wouldn’t therefore be repeated. Given salary costs grew by 16% and headcount by 12% last year on top of a redundancy programme I have my doubts that it will be an exceptional moving forward.

  14. Sounds like nothing was said about the huge increase in expenditure that led to the £10m loss last year. Surely there needs to be some action taken here. So the focus is on improving revenue by having more hospitality tickets. As stated in a prior review the ticket price has already gone up hugely over the last few years and I also wonder if there is actually the demand for more hospitality. The cost of my 3 Murrayfield season tickets is already a significant outlay and any further increase in that would make me think again. It sounds like the focus is on the non hard core rugby supporter day trippers.

    As Dodson says “I need to bring people in who can spend more of their discretionary income not just on their ticket but on dwell time around the stadium, and that’s where we are focussed” Who are these people.

    16
    1
    • Ross, it sounds like you’re not Mr Dodsons target audience.

      Not only does he want you (well probably not you) to buy you game ticket, h also wants to you pay mega bugs for pre match nosh, mega bucks for half time refreshments and then mega bucks for post match nosh.

      This style of entertainment is not for the ordinary rugby punter who takes in Club rugby or who have in interest in Glasgow or Edinburgh doing well.

      22
      • Its sad if thats the way we are going. People like me and i’m sure many others on this site who have both Scotland and in my case Edinburgh season tickets are the base providers of revenue for the SRU and should not be ignored or abused in terms of future ticket prices.

        13
  15. So, rather the increase the capacity of the stadium to accommodate the extra 10 – 15% hospitality places, the amount of seats available to genuine rugby supporters will need to be reduced.
    On one hand the SRU want to grow the game, yet match day at Murrayfield is going to become more elitist and the preserve of corporate types who don’t know one end of a line out from the other.
    I think we see the direction of travel on this one…..

    11
    1

Comments are closed.