Analysis: Russell crisis symptomatic of a deeper problem in Scottish Rugby

Flashpoint three weeks ago was the inevitable conclusion in a downward spiral in relationship with head coach which started years ago

Gregor Townsend and Finn Russell's relationship should never been allowed to deteriorate to this stage. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson
Gregor Townsend and Finn Russell's relationship should never been allowed to deteriorate to this stage. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson

FOR anyone who has not already taken an entrenched view on the big issue which has hung over Scottish rugby these last three weeks, the overriding emotion when reading Finn Russell’s interview in today’s The Sunday Times must surely have been of sadness that it has ended up at this seemingly intractable impasse.

Russell has kept a dignified silence throughout this whole affair up until now, while the SRU have very deliberately pushed a narrative that the player’s absence during the build-up and first two weekends of this Six Nations campaign was down to him being “disciplined for a breach of team protocol” related to his desire to have a drink in the hotel bar on the first night in camp against his team-mates’ wishes.

The player has now given an eloquent and compelling account of the night in question in which he protests that the issue was not about his desire to have another drink, rather related to a far deeper-rooted unhappiness with the environment in the Scotland camp under head coach Gregor Townsend.


Finn Russell breaks silence for the first time since Scotland walk-out

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What is clear is that, at least in Russell’s mind, this tension between the playmaker and the coach stretches back way beyond that Sunday night, and indeed beyond last year’s Calcutta Cup match when Russell revealed on live TV that he’d had an “argument” with Townsend over tactics at half-time. The problem, it seems, began during Russell’s earliest days playing under Townsend at Glasgow Warriors eight years ago.

The fact that this has not been addressed before reaching crisis point speaks volumes about the general dysfunctionality of Scottish Rugby at the moment.

During the last two years, the Murrayfield machine has lurched from one governance and/or PR disaster to the next, with trust in the people responsible for running the game being eroded by each and every misstep.

The catalyst was the illegal sacking by the SRU of Russell’s father, Keith, from the role of Director of Domestic Rugby, which resulted in a scathingjudgement against Chief Executive Mark Dodson by an employment tribunal – this has undoubtedly created an uncomfortable backdrop for both sides in the most recent Mexican stand-off.

Following on from that, there was the internal review conducted by SRU Board member Lesley Thomson QC into the governing body’s handling of issues surrounding the Keith Russell case – including the decision of the Board to grant Dodson a lucrative three-year contract extension whilst still awaiting the outcome of the tribunal, and the liberal use of confidentiality agreements for departing staff – which ultimately provided us with absolutely no substantive detail of any concerns being identified let alone properly addressed.

Then there was the mysterious conception and heavy-handed implementation of Dodson’s Agenda3/Super6 project to restructure the administration and funding of club rugby in Scotland, which left many rank and file rugby people feeling railroaded and short-changed.

And there was also the SRU claim ahead of last August’s AGM that they were “debt free” when that patently was not the case.

More recently, we had the Typhoon Hagibis fall-out, when Dodson decided to pressurise World Rugby through the media into rescheduling Scotland’s all-important match against Japan if the storm hit Yokohama. Opinions are split over whether this was a good or bad move, but it didn’t go down well elsewhere and resulted in the SRU picking up a £70,000 fine as a consequence.

The SRU may have persuaded World Rugby to dress it up as a ‘donation’, but that was semantics. It was a fine. Nothing more and nothing less.

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Next up, the governance review conducted by Sir Bill Gammell – a former Scotland internationalist, millionaire oilman and long-standing associate of Dodson – who came to the conclusion that concerns about the conduct of the Board and paid executives at the top of the Scottish game should be addressed by giving them more autonomy to do exactly as they please. The proposal was meant to be pushed through an SGM by the end of March but now appears to have been discreetly shelved after a furious backlash from member clubs, who have belatedly remembered that it is them and not the hired help who own the business and all its assets.

Perhaps most galling of all, there was the outrage last month at the revelation that Dodson had trousered £933k in salary and bonuses for the year up to the end of May 2019, more than doubling the £455k he had picked up the year before. This is a figure that dwarves, by some considerable distance, the emoluments paid to the CEO’s of the other home unions, with Philip Browne, chief executive of the IRFU, apparently taking home in the region of £175,000 during a similar period.

With Dodson’s three fellow executive directors at Murrayfield also doubling their income from £535k between them to £1.18m, those four suits at the top of the organisation accounted for 3.5 percent of the SRU’s £61m turnover last year, which is the equivalent of 73 percent of the total spent on grassroots ‘club support and development’.

All of this is relevant because it feeds into a perception that the sport in this country is being run by a small cabal of people who have lost sight [if they ever had it] of the core purpose of the business.

And it relates specifically to the national team’s current predicament because it looks like the focus has been so much on either empire-building or fire-fighting, and sometimes both of those things at the same time, that the people in charge have not bothered themselves addressing potentially uncomfortable truths about the failed World Cup campaign.

The SRU were without a director of rugby from the end of the last Six Nations right through the World Cup and up until the start of January, when Jim Mallinder finally took on the role, meaning that the relatively inexperienced Townsend – with only five years as a head coach with Glasgow Warriors before getting the Scotland job – had no senior rugby figure to bounce ideas off, ask for advice and to ultimately be held accountable by.

Now that Mallinder has his feet fully under the desk, you would have expected that top of his ‘to-do list’ would have been to pick up the phone to Russell – better still to hop on a plane to Paris – in order to get a proper feel for what is really going on. While he is there, he would also be able to check-in on Richie Gray, who is apparently back available for Scotland now having opted to sit out the World Cup. But there appears to have been no contact at all.

Furthermore, unlike England and Ireland [who did markedly better than Scotland], there has been no official review of the World Cup, although Townsend did explain a few weeks ago that there had been plenty of internal discussion by the coaching and management team, with their conclusions then passed upstairs – which is a bit like leaving the school kids to mark their own homework.

Had there been a director of rugby in place and/or a proper review of the World Cup, then the ticking time-bomb of the Russell’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with Townsend would surely have been identified and addressed before the almost inevitable explosion.

This lack of accountability has not helped Townsend, rather undermined him. Speculation is now rife about his relationship with the players and his suitability for the job. It was Dodson who gave Townsend his big break at Glasgow Warriors in 2012 (which was a bold move at the time), and their careers have been aligned ever since. Dodson shared Townsend’s glory when he led the Warriors to the PRO12 title in 2015, but now they both find their respective positions under unprecedented scrutiny.


Finn Russell breaks silence for the first time since Scotland walk-out

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1935 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

60 Comments

  1. What a good article,

    I would also like to know who controls the shares? When are the annual general meetings and who gets to attend? It does seem that the SRU is operating behind a veil of secrecy. Something is definitely right in the SRU, and a rotten fish stinks from its head!

  2. Interesting to see how many more times Murrayfield will be filled without Finn and when the empty seats start appearing how quickly Gregor gets chucked under the Tram !
    Filling the stadium is of course great for the game in Scotland but actually if we are filling the seats with the sort of idiots seen abusing the opposition before Saturdays game then that does Scottish Rugby and in fact Scotland no favours at all. Great article by David Barnes pulling many threads together. Threads I suspect that may be coming loose from the Emperors new clothes made by Dodson the Tailor.

    • Townsend has been an abject failure as Scotland manager. He has undone all the great work put in building the team by Vern Cotter who was unceremoniously dumped to bring Townsend. Absolute shambles. Get rid of Townsend to start and get Finn back in the team pronto.

  3. I think it is a mistake to weave all these unrelated calumnies into one critical tapestry. There are a lot of different factors at play here.

    Dodson’s bonus will be solely related to his business i.e. financial results. He has near-on doubled the SRU’s income from c £31m when he arrived to £60m+ today and cut the SRU’s debt from £20mm to under £5m. That is a brilliant business result by any yardstick.

    The fact that his mega-bonus is totally ludicrous is down to the SRU Board’s Remuneration sub committee: either they never imagined he would turn things around to such an extent or were far too soft in setting the financial targets he had to meet to net such a colossal handout. The blame here lies with the Board, not the CEO,though there does look to be a culture of big handouts to Board members setting in.

    I did not like Townshend being handed Warriors after Lineen had done the hard work of building the team, ditto taking over from Vern Cotter when the latter had got the team playing very well. I don’t think that Gregor’s prowess as national attack coach merited a promotion, he should have been sent off to learn the job as assistant coach somewhere. But we can’talk overlook the constant moan from supporters and clubs that we should have a Scottish coach rather than a furrier. They got their wish, it was IMO an unrealistic aim and an underwhelming choice of HC. This is not the time to point the finger of blame but once the 6N is over the issue may need revisited.
    While not personally convinced of the value of Super 6, it wasn’t Dodson’so idea, he initially wanted PRO A, U23 sides playing a few fixtures against the Irish and Welsh pro teams. Super 6 arose because the Premier clubs wanted the Pro Academy boys playing for them – “they’re oor boys” – rather than in PRO A games. From the point of view of developing our young players in high-level competition, the Premier clubs’ Super 6 call was the wrong one IMO.
    The unfortunate control and spin culture that has developed at Murrayfield is down to the CEO, the Board and I suspect the former PR man who is now the COO (Chief Operating Officer). The handling of Finn’s case smacks of heavy-handed PR involvement. Who on earth thought that publicly implying a drink problem with a key player as we entered the 6N was a clever idea? Now the facts are clearer, it looks like a deliberate mis-statement. The guy, on his day off, ordered a third beer, to find himself being rebuked about a new rule nobody had bothered to tell him about. I quite understand him wishing to have the right of reply. It should never have cone to that, a good coach would have sorted it out behind closed doors and there would have been no opportunity for a person from the SRU to push his way in and turning it all into a PR crisis management game, with predictably disastrous results.
    We need Finn back in the team pronto and Mallinder/Dodson need to knock some heads together right away.

    • Remuneration Committees have always been totally corrupt. You go on mine and I’ll go on yours!
      This affair has been total incompetence from start to finish. I like the continuing refrain that all he players agree that Finn was in the wrong – including the tooth fairy at the foot of he garden. Laughable but they are all subject to same fear of SRU vindictiveness. It is now abundantly clear that Richie Gray is persona non grata with the SRU – just as Barclay was for three years of his prime career time. Cockerill, who admire, has just shown that he is up for the job – a oood thing maybe but he should have kept his counsel to himself. Shambles from start to finish.

  4. Well said David Barnes. Thoroughly excellent and well considered piece. This corporate greed at the SRU where failure is (very) well rewarded must stop and some accountability brought to all facets of Scottish rugby.

  5. Couldn’t understand JB, GL and TS retiring before this 6 nations. Had suspicions then about problems in the Scottish camp. Actually had them before Ireland game in Japan. Following some of the players on social media I felt there were cliques, didn’t cone across as a bonded team at all. Wondered at the time how no-one (like a director of rugby or coaches) picked up on it. Some serious talent in the squad so what’s going wrong?

    • Och come on, those players are all the wrong side of 30, have put their bodies through the mangle and won’t be around for the next RWC.

  6. Since this story broke I’ve suspected animosity towards the Russells has been driving it. Finn probably fed up with the bullying culture coming from the top. Toonie was appointed by Dodson, so my guess is he’s under pressure to NOT be flexible if he wants to hold onto his job. I think left to his own devices he would have sorted this.

  7. Well first things first, was Russell out of order continuing to drink; possibly, was he wrong in not turning up for training the next day? Definitely. You might not like the Coach or Manager but your Team mates deserve better, especially if you have the talent to be a significant factor in a winning Team, Team being an important factor in the ‘No Show’.
    Speaking as an exile over here in Germany, the temptation to have a good drink with old friends in an environment that is clearly different from France or Germany is a temptation, and one that I can easily understand, but as I said not turning up at the Day Job is out of order.
    The Finn Russell problem is however just the tip of an Iceberg if one is to believe journalists closer to the problem than myself. Everything I have read from David Barnes and others rings a louder Bell than Big Ben.
    Was it Dodson or the other Pie Muncher that was the driving force behind replacing Cotter with Townsend? Was that a good move? Not on the face of it, and from better knowledge than I have, there has been a bit of a problem between Russell and Townsend going back to the Glasgow Warrior days. Cotter from memory brought players back into the fold, Barclay is one that springs to mind, perhaps Vern was too much his own man for the likes of Johnson and Dodson and by all accounts Townsend seems to have been a Dodson favourite.
    Cotter many would argue, including myself, picked up the Scottish Squad from below ground level and from my observation was deeply upset about the treatment he received from the SRU and honestly I can’t say I blame him. In addition you would be hard pressed to say that the performance collectively doesn’t seem to have improved as time progresses from the Cotter regime into Townsend’s tenure, or some would argue that it hasn’t even kept pace in some facets.
    Is that worth Dodson pocketing half a million Pounds in bonus on a salary of £455,000, not in my book and not in many others.
    Sacking Finn Russell’s father, whether right or wrong the method used by Dodson was Dictatorial to say the least and subsequently failing to convince independent judiciary that the SRU was a good employer confirms that, suggesting that the SRU is debt free when it clearly isn’t, shouting off about the Japan game with threats of legal action and loosing the SRU £70,000 fine.
    If anyone is dropped it should be Dodson, and on his way out he should pay back the £70,000 to the SRU for opening his mouth outside of Murrayfield, where it seems his word, some would say bullying, is the standard operational procedure.

  8. Remuneration of Dodson and fellow directors shameful when viewed both in relation to investment in grass roots and in benchmark salaries in other more successful unions.

  9. Wakeup Scotland. We have 4 men working ostensibly for the game who are taking home a figure that reflects a high percentage of the funding provided to the clubs. Why is this being discussed? This is mismanagement on a colossal scale and should be addressed immediately.
    We took what I suspect, happy to be corrected, was the least experienced coaching teams of the senior nations at the world cup. We failed to turn up for the game against Ireland, a game that was 4 years in the preparation. We also lost to Japan, the only other game of any merit. We now sit outside the top eight ranked teams in world rugby, with Japan sitting at 8th. Japan has a population of 127 million and the world’s third largest economy. How are going to turn that round? Ask your soccer friends how easy it is easy to advance from the third place in a group. We will not get different results doing the same things. Current management should be thanked for their impressive efforts on the commercial front and replaced with people who see the development and success of Scottish rugby as their primary kpi, and commercial income only as an essential means to that end. If we do not do that, and do that now, Scottish rugby will die, and on our watch.

  10. Good article think everybody had read into this was not about a late night drinking session it was really about the SRU management of Scottish rugby and Townsend’s management skills with his players and coaching staff.
    First it was Hogg v Townsend 5 years ago, then it was last years Calcutta Cup game with Russell
    Townsend has been the Scotland coach since 2017 with little success.
    There has been comments about his ability as Scotland coach for a number of years now. Was removing cotter Scotland’s downfall.
    New coaches in place no change we are still losing games, all we hear is excuses from the coaching staff.
    If Italy keep improving each year,they put a good performance in against France yesterday the question will be asked are Scotland good enough to be in the 6 nations, we certainly were not good enough to be in the world cup.

  11. Looking at all the comments, wondering if the next thing to come out the woodwork might be the true state of the finances….

  12. Great article. Everyone recognises the fact that, as a relatively small rugby nation, we need to have all our ducks in a row for the national team to be competitive. We need to optimise everything off the field (player management, team management, coaching, mental skills training, conditioning, etc. etc.) to have a chance of winning test matches and it’s clear (from everything in the article and the comments other posters have made above) that we’re miles away from doing that. That has got to be the responsibility of senior management at the SRU and they’re failing badly. We desperately need change.

    • It is a fact in all business that you ned to keep your best talent, nurture, support and cajole them into performing for the good of the whole. When relationships look a bit dodgy, you deal with the issues BEFORE they get to crisis point.
      Having said that, we are here, so what happens now? Mallinder must get both parties into a room (or even separate rooms) and resolve this by his authority and compromise, as Director. Scotland cannot afford to be without its best players and despite the idiosyncracies of both parties, this situations needs to be resolved for the good and for the reputation of the Scottish game. This should have happened immediately the issue blew up, but c’mon guys, earn your wages and direct – get it sorted!

  13. Decent article DB , you’ve brought together most of the info out there in the public domain , what we need to know. is what’s actually going on and being said, behind those closed doors of “castle SRU” ?
    Personally, i think its ethically improper that the upper echelons of the SRU have actually pocketed that amount of personal cash, when the grassroot clubs are crying out for investment. Every, well almost every, past and present Scotland player had their first taste of rugby at junior club level , the clubs produce the player base, so support them more. The Super6 “scam” has just divided the strength of the old premiership clubs, with the most clout at AGM time. They have been “hoodwinked” into becoming a part of the gang , where what the gang leader says , goes ! This seasons standard of Super6 matches are no different , or of a higher standard than the previous years, top of the table premiership clashes, so what’s been the point ?
    Its all starting to look and feel like the clubs have created this “shrewed cookie” of a monster, who sits at the head of the clubs SRU and has entrenched himself and surrounded himself with ‘generals” of a similar “ilk”. Who now tells the clubs what “their” SRU will and wont do.
    As for “Finn gate” …. isnt everyone taught at grass roots rugby that you dont speak back to the ref and you nod your head, agree with your coach , listen to the team tactics …. but play your own game on the pitch ??? if you play well and the team are winning, its very hard to drop you or dispense with your services and if that happens , the coach lives and dies by his own sword ! Country first chaps , ego’s second.

  14. Davis, I personally think your article shows tremendous bias, with your second paragraph about ‘poor’ dignified Finn Russell and the evil SRU.

    The 2 issues of Finn Russsell and the state of the Scottish game are not in any way linked. He has walked out on his country due to a personal dislike of the coach. I’m stunned that one Scottish fan would support his stance. Who does he think he is? There aren’t many sports men or woman in the world at his level that would act like this.

    I don’t think he should be allowed to play for Scotland again. He has let the whole country down plain and simple.

  15. I for one won’t be back till Dodson is gone. The wages he is picking up for total failure is nothing short of a disgrace.
    I paid £160 for 2 tickets to sit behind the goals yesterday. No more.
    Club rugby is an even bigger crisis. Clubs in Fife having to spend a fortune to send a team to far north of the country and even the islands in ‘regional rugby’.

  16. Over the years. When you consider how many players are actually not scottish or come from fee paying schools its clear SRU are failing or make absolutely no attempt to grow the game from grass roots level in Scotland. Fee paying schools represent 4 percent of scottish schools its a joke we have such a tiny puddle to fish from when there’s a sea of potential players like Finn we have in our own country. I know football is dominant in this country but SRU do not do enough or spend enough to grow new roots.

  17. Great piece by a great writer! Loved the school kids/homework analogy!!😆 Need to laugh or would probably cry! It is a serious situation.

    • Great article Barny, makes sense to me and a whole lot of folk that never hear what’s going on at the top of the SRU, no wonder the grass roots struggle when the fat cats are filling there pockets with that kind of money.
      The part that makes no sense was getting rid of a coach (Vern Cotter) when we were starting to play some of the best rugby Scotland’s seen in a long time, think it’s time for another shake up and clear the rot.

  18. Excellent well written article, which sums up the sad malaise which afflicts Scottish rugby at the top……Shocking governance, a raft of problems emanating from the CEO, and detrimentally affecting all aspects and levels of the Game, from Russellgate via Haggisgate, to the much contended foisting of Super6 on the Club game, through to the highly contentious proposed Gammell/Murray report on restructuring the SRU, and now the Coach/ player dispute……. The common denominator throughout the entire sad series of episodes is the SRU CEO. End of!

    Coaching, and now to a

  19. I liked Towsend as a future possiblity for scotland manager. But I was gutted and concerned when the decision was made that he (as a relative novice) was to displace such a fine coach as Cotter, who had turned us around big time, and who was clearly emotionally upset by his premature removal from coaching Scotland. Towsend at first rode that wave of success (cotters), but always in my mind had a question of whether he was really up to it? If he doesn’t sort things out soon I think he and SRU could be seen as undoing all the progress Scotland made of recent.

  20. Well written article may i say.The problem is deeper rooted than we can all see.I dont know any thing about salaries at murryfield. But what i can see is the system’s not working. Not Fit For Purpose.From the ceo / senior coaches / junior coaches /academy coaches none of the above are accountable they should all be performance related.Why should we be any different to any other buisness. when they come under any scrutiny what happens side ways move to a new postion.There good at giving stats for game fime.If you all seen the stats for boys dropping out of rugby. Through bad management of academies and coachies.It would give you some thing to talk about.This cant be fixed over night.The best 10 in the world frozen out the game.

  21. And it isn’t really about Cockerill as the next populist fan saviour. He has his own challenges in managing talent and coaching style. As someone who’s seen it close hand, the culture from CEO down is toxic and fear-based; the non-disclosures and HR cases attest to that. Lots of work to be done to get the SRU and the professional game to where our brethren in, say, the Irish game have got it, or indeed in the English premiership.

    • Russell thinks he is a billy big bollocks and can do whatever he wants to get his own way and if he doesn’t get his own way then he walks away.

  22. Top article and on the money. The abject lack of confidence, variation, tactical leadership (pick and go mentality, hoof it all day, overcomplicate the line-outs, throw long etc) all point to trouble at coaching level and beyond. Even with the conditions, that was an abject amount of drivel yesterday.

  23. The implications of a world league of international rugby, to replace the 6 Nations and Rugby Championship, were that a relegated Scotland would swiftly become bankrupt. Would many be more confident of our present team’s ability to challenge to win the title than to be contesting the relegation spot? Dodson may have improved the SRU’s finances, though perhaps not as much as his own, but Scotland has to be more competitive in the 6 Nations to be taken seriously and be a genuine prospect for the later stages on the World Cup.
    The SRU may belong to the clubs, but do the clubs have a real vision of what we should be doing and why, or has that responsibility been abdicated in favour of a select few?
    From this article, Dodson and Townsend’s positions seem untenable, but we need to have a clear plan of what we should be doing instead.
    Cotter’s performances were slightly flattered by what happened under Johnson’s stewardship, but the urgent appointment of Townsend means we can’t know what the future held as his influence grew. He’s not coming back. Sadly, neither is Craig Chalmers, who was in charge during a renaissance at Melrose, but seems to have been ostracised by Edinburgh and a valuable asset has been discarded. Who else has been lost to the game?
    Townsend was described as the least organised person they knew by his playing colleagues and that is too often reflected in the national team’s performance. When they play well, our team looks pretty damn good, but who knows when they will?
    The game’s a shambles in Scotland and we need a plan, but for that we first need vision, a clear purpose and an agreed, realistic target.

    • Well said Sheumais. Agree completely but what should we (as supporters and stakeholders) do now as this cannot go on?

  24. David Barnes has written an extremely perceptive summary.

    In every organisation, the touch of the chief executive is inevitably echoed at lower levels, and in his efforts to establish total control of Scotland’s rugby, Mr Dodson has all the touch of a bull rhinoceros. His ‘control’ quickly became the bullying laid bare by Employment Tribunal – further evidenced in his divide-and-conquer tactics whereby ‘Super’ 6 Clubs were duped and contractually trapped into five-year-long legal obligations to the SRU.

    In effect, these Clubs have become reluctant landlords, with Mr Dodson’s numerous SRU placemen the greedy tenants who pay a fraction of normal rent in return for accommodation (Club pitches, dressing rooms, stands, terracings, clubhouses, etc.) and onerous maintenance and administration – all provided by the Clubs and their own officials. Bizarrely, each of these six Club landlords is also legally obliged to pay £312,500 (£62,500 p.a.) towards its SRU tenants’ (Super 6 players) wages.

    In paltry return, SRU-employed-and-controlled head coaches and support staff allow a little cosmetic, face-saving Club input to Super 6 player selection – but always subject to final SRU approval. The SRU also ‘assist’ (dictate) Super 6 Club match-day marketing activity ‘to boost crowds’, but the SRU confuse cause and effect – blaring music and frenzied announcers tend if anything to reduce paying-adult attendances. (Child-inflated crowds are attributable to mere novelty and spectator curiosity about Super 6’s doubtful impact.) As ‘rent’, SRU tenants graciously match the £62,500 p.a. they contractually demand of their victim Super 6 landlords – but some of that SRU outlay already went and goes to their own SRU Academy players. Likewise, most of the SRU coaches and support staff ‘given’ to Super 6 Clubs were and are on the SRU payroll, anyway.

    Predictably, every Super 6 Club is now desperately scrabbling to meet its SRU-imposed obligation to find £312,500 over the next five years. But just how many fund-raising Club lunches, dinners, raffles and auctions can loyal but rapidly-diminishing Club members afford – or even want – to attend, in support of SRU-dominated Clubs who have lost so much of their traditional identity?

    While it’s absolutely right that rogue landlords should not victimise innocent tenants, it’s equally right that well-meaning Super 6 landlords should not be victimised, both financially and culturally, by rogue tenants like the SRU.

    Super 6 apologists will argue that Mr Dodson’s vanity project had to be forced through because (in Mr D’s personally-ignorant view of rugby union) the Premiership was ‘not fit for purpose’, and the Clubs just couldn’t ‘get together’. The former reason is at best debatable; the latter is probably true, but the Clubs’ lesson must surely be learned by now – especially in face of the Gammell-Murray Report’s attempt to marginalise Clubs’ influence even further. Surely all Scottish Clubs must now ‘get together’ and throw that Report out – along with Mr Dodson, his unfortunate lack of man-management ability, and his ill-conceived ‘Super’ 6?

    • the money wasted on this Super 6 should be put into the grassroots in Scotland
      2men and a dog watching .Dodson is killing Scottish rugby .

    • Dodson’s salary will always sit badly when Scotland are not showing winning ways or at least consistent improvement – he should be more alert to this rather than glibly sticking his snout back in the trough for more.
      Would question assertion that Russell dignified when he responds via an English newspaper – Townsend, for all the criticisms levelled at him, has refrained from openly criticising Finn in the media. Surely that’s the more dignified approach?

  25. It’s an abject mess. I’ve been a reasonably consistent Townsend apologist up until fairly recently, hoping for a good RWC and 6N but the whole SRU setup is massively discredited.
    The fiasco of Finn’s dad, Twickenham 2019 first half and “half-time-gate”, the ludicrous Dodson salary/bonus situation, a dismal world cup, no review on why it was a dismal world cup, the current Russell farce and 20 years of abject failure all add up to a grim situation. People are getting very angry.
    We’ve had a good bunch of talented players for several years now and they’re having the flair and joy coaches and trampled out of them. I mean we’ve had lots of good players over the years, perhaps not as many as other countries but not so few as to consistently fail to achieve so spectacularly.
    People are beginning to remember Townsend as a player… episodes of flair and genius leaping out from fairly consistent demonstrations of calamitous decision making – so we win the last 5N in 1999 and fail to register a point the next year.
    Twenty years later it’s even worse.
    It’s a shambles.

  26. Top article, as ever.

    Is it possible to spell out exactly what processes within the SRU constitution the clubs must follow to ditch Dodson?

    EGM? 75% majority?

  27. Dodson needs renamed Hobson as in Hobson’s choice which would appear to be his driver.
    He has become, supported by his various disciples, a dictator, untouchable.
    He is also, no doubt, on a contract which has him so expensive to sack, that he has the comfort of knowing that only he has the right to determine when to move on.

  28. Pretty sure this group of talented players could get it together without any coaching (if that were possible) and still play better and more instinctively. Rugby seems to have lost sight of the fact that it is a team sport where individual instincts should thrive alongside a pattern or two, not a rule book of “fifty standard ways to win a match”. Less ‘coaching’ and more free rein. Plus get rid of the greedy suits who contribute little and take much.

  29. When you ran the Tommy Seymour story (retiring from Scotland rugby) he said ‘one day I might tell all’ or something along those lines. Do you think you could interview him again ? Defo something going on and it needs to be sorted!

  30. This is about respect and trust. The CEO of the SRU has neither from the clubs and the sport in general as he has not earned it. Similarly the Head Coach has clearly mismanaged the national team and the Finn Russell situation is not the only situation. This situation cannot continue neither at CEO / Executive level or in the National Coaching structure. Sport is about the pursuit of excellence and respected and trusted leadership on and off the pitch is essential for success at all levels. Who can mediate a path out of this or does Dodson and Townsend have to be stepped aside for the game to flourish.

  31. What a sorry state of affairs!

    Regardless of where the truth lies it has been grossly mis-managed resulting in a lose-lose outcome.

  32. excellent analysis David thank you
    Whole set up needs reviewed and sorted out ,meanwhile Finn needs to bein the team and a captain in the forwards to direct the game from the front

  33. Excellent synopsis.The “ownwers” need to somehow sort out the governance of the SRU which is being run by autocrats and their sycophants.If what FR says is true then Townsend has to consider his approach as well.
    Only now do we have a real idea of what a bad decision it was to give VC his jotters although many supporters of VC thought it was an extremely ill thought through decision to get the inexperienced GT as natioanl coach.Disappointing

    • Two sides to everything but Scotland manager not doing well we gone backwards since he took on the job.Last year match against England same as this year kick n run.You got to ask why mess Gregg laidlaw about as captain that why he gave up with Scotland
      Hope to see Finn back in tram once SRU sack Manager as he clueless backwards again very poor

  34. Fine synthesis there David pulling together the multiple threads of the travails in Scottish Rugby.

    There is an oft repeated phrase that culture is set from the top. Employees see the way the senior leaders act and copy them. That the national coach should ape the Union CEO doesn’t come as a surprise

  35. First class piece. So sad that the game suffers because of men in suits, but hasn’t that always been the way at Murrayfield? Don’t think Stuart Hogg’s radio interview about “Finn throwing the pill about” will have helped Finn’s mindset either.

  36. As I don’t know him, I have no especial gripes about Townsend as a person. However, he was always up and down as a player; unpredictable to the point of making lots of bad decisions with the occasional flash of brilliance, which, for the Scotland management at least, seemed to negate any memory of him putting his team mates in trouble on the pitch, even to the extent of causing opposition tries. An in-depth analysis of his playing days as compared with his tactical methods as a coach might prove interesting reading.
    Is it time for an approach to be made to Richard Cockerill to ask if he would consider the job as Scotland coach, as his tactical nous is usually first class, and also it seems he has an excellent rapport with his Edinburgh players?

  37. Excellent article. Pretty stark when you see all those issues set out together. I’m constantly amazed how often top coaches spend so little time communicating with players. Finn is not a big time Charlie. He cares about Scotland but clearly doesn’t enjoy and environment where everything is coach led. We can I afford our best player left out in the cold. This is a talented squad and we are in danger of squandering an opportunity to win things

    • I have tried and failed to post a link to the latest accounts of Scottish Rugby Union Ltd.
      There are 50,000 shares. The question is “who owns the shares”, for if ownership is within the Scottish Rugby Union, who exercises control?
      In effect the clubs appear to have no involvement at all in the running of SRU Ltd, and Dodson seems to have a total grip.
      With a turnover of £61m the net profit of £300k is trifling. Moreover there are millions of pounds in debentures and no indication that SRU Ltd is puting anything by to pay these off in the times to come.
      An in depth investigation might be worthwhile.

    • I totally agree with the comment from Don with regards to losing International games at all levels. Played seven and lost seven in the last two weekends surely cannot be good enough. What do the SRU heigharchy do? They all extract more money from the kitty and the Dodson remuneration is just a joke, bonuses for failure. Hmmmmm…..

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