IT is now 19 days since that joint statement was issued by the SRU Board and Council which told us so little about the findings of the 14-week internal review into the management culture of senior staff and the apparent failure in effective governance at Murrayfield, and that dark cloud lingering over EH12 is showing no signs of shifting.
The SRU, presumably on the advice of the crisis communications specialist brought in to manage the whole sorry affair, have gone to ground, which is a big problem because there is a lot that just does not stack up. In fact, there’s not much that does.
That the statement is a sham can be the only explanation for the contrast between the contrition shown at the AGM and its banality. On the face of it, it looks like a brazen attempt at self-preservation and reputation management by the old Board – and a power play by the Executive and non-Council non-Execs, which has worryingly been rubber stamped by the Council. But the real picture is surely being hidden from us.
Keith Russell has been airbrushed whilst the 14 NDA recipients and a few more have been inconsistently examined and desperately swept under the carpet, leaving them and dozens more seething at the whitewash.
Russell’s allegation that there is a toxic culture at Murrayfield, dismissed out of hand at various times by CEO Mark Dodson, past-President Rob Flockhart, Chairman of the Board Colin Grassie and current-President Dee Bradbury does not appear to have been examined at all. Neither has the minutiae of Dodson’s substantially enhanced contract extension. Rather, in a display of what Tom English of the BBC called ‘corporate bullying’, we have been told by exclusion that there is nothing to see here and that we should shut up and move on.
We certainly have that option but that would betray the interests of those former employees, not to mention the good name of our sport.
For an organisation that has nothing to hide, the statement is a joke, but it is certainly not funny for the NDAs. The hope, however, is that it is such a work of fiction, there must surely be good stuff happening in the background.
Trumpeting increased HR capability, as the statement does, when Dodson and his General Counsel Robert Howat seem to like to bypass it – Howat is head of HR – is hardly reassuring.
A bit of detail about the Remuneration Committee suggests that Grassie, Ian McLauchlan, and Flockhart were primarily responsible for Dodson’s contract extension granted after the Russell tribunal hearing but before the judgement was issued. What they knew about the hearing and how that information tallied with the written judgement, we are not told. But we are not being told very much at all.
Grassie’s AGM scriptwriters acknowledged 14 NDAs out of over 600 departures since 2011, including players and coaches. That has now morphed into acknowledgement that there are more than 14, and we are told that some of these extra ones have been looked at by the Board, but not the external advisors. Why not? We are not told.
What we in and close to the rugby press do know is that there are plenty more that have not been examined by anyone. As noted in a previous article, the only way to check that the culture is not toxic is to speak to all departees, those with and without NDAs. Added possibly to a privacy protected survey of current staff. There is no sign of either, however, so what we have is Russell’s claim being rubbished by those who say they know better and that’s the end of it.
I can’t say that I had high hopes for the review. On the face of it my worst fears from prior to the AGM have been realised. But the joke statement might conceal some serious action. For Grassie and Flockhart to be so contrite at the AGM and for the statement to finger no one for any failures does not stack up. Protecting employee privacy and data suggests that disciplinary action has been taken and that any affected employees do not want this known. Whatever, damaged goods could inhabit Murrayfield.
The Russell judgment was a wake-up call. The way the review of his case has been handled should have alarm bells ringing in clubhouses around the country and especially between the ears of the SRU Council members.
- If you are interested in reading more of David Johnston’s thoughts on the statement then please click here for his ‘long read’: They have been caught with their pants down but are now behaving like emperors