Board and Council consider Lesley Thomson’s report – but no public update

Use of non-disclosure agreements for departing staff has been focus of investigation

Mark Dodson Colin Grassie
SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson and Chairman of the Board Colin Grassie had had a tough summer ***Image: Fotosport/David Gibson***

THE SRU have yet to give an update from the Board and Council meetings which took place last Thursday and Friday, respectively, at which the findings of Lesley Thomson’s review into the organisation’s use of confidentiality (also known as non-disclosure) agreements for departing staff was top of the agenda.

The review was instigated by SRU Board Chairman Colin Grassie in the aftermath of a scathing employment tribunal judgement delivered against the organisation’s chief executive Mark Dodson and its General Counsel Robert Howat in early June, which heavily criticised the pair for the way they handled the dismissal of former director of domestic rugby Keith Russell.

Judge Joseph D’Inverno stated in his judgement that Russell’s dismissal was “both procedurally and substantively unfair”.


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Grassie announced at August’s AGM that the review, which initially focussed specifically on the Russell affair, would be opened up to include all non-playing staff who have signed confidentiality agreements since Dodson’s appointment as chief executive in 2011.

Thomson was Scotland’s Solicitor General between May 2011 and June 2016, and she has been an independent non-executive director on the SRU’s Board since October 2013. Her investigation has been aided by ‘external, independent experts’ including Turcan Connell solicitors and a PwC investigations team.

“The Board, as part of its current deliberations, is reviewing – with the help of external, independent experts – settlement agreements as a whole used within Scottish Rugby,” said Grassie at the AGM.

“Settlement agreements are an accepted and legitimate tool used within any business environment, particularly when the leaving individual possesses commercially sensitive information. I fully acknowledge we’re also a governing body, not just a business, therefore we will consider their applicability going forward.

“Since September 2011, there have been 14 settlements concluded for non-playing staff. Every single one of these is being reviewed by independent experts appointed by the Board.

“For context, settlement agreements are very much deployed by exception by Scottish Rugby, which is a governing body but also a commercial organisation with sensitive, competitor-relevant information in use and available every day.

“The Board will take a clear position on settlement agreements going forward,” Grassie continued. “The Board will conclude its business as quickly as possible. Allow me to assure you, a lot has already been done and a lot will be done by early September. By then, we expect to be in a position to meet as a full Board and conclude on Ms Thomson’s report with other elements having been considered, such as settlement agreements.

“The Board is absolutely committed to conducting this review thoroughly. It is our duty to our stakeholders and it will be done.

“It is our intention to conclude these matters in early September, when we will share these [findings] with the Council, and make a public statement thereafter.”

The SRU was asked earlier today if a public statement is going to be forthcoming any time soon, but did not respond.

Mark Dodson was awarded a three year contract extension in March of this year, after the Russell employment tribunal hearing had concluded but before the judgement had been delivered. His previous contract had two years still to run.

The accounts for Scottish Rugby Union Limited were lodged at Companies House on the Thursday before the AGM, revealing that the salary of the highest paid executive in the organisation has dropped from £563k per annum in the 2017 accounts to £455k this year. The total remuneration for the SRU’s four executive directors –  Dodson, Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay, Howat and Finance Director Andrew Healy – was £990k this year, as opposed to £1,137k in the 2017 accounts.


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About David Barnes 3114 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.