Former SRU stalwart Fred McLeod passes away

Former President, Chairman and Chief Executive of the SRU was one the game's most respected administrators

Fred McLeod in 2016
Fred McLeod in 2016

FRED McLEOD – the former SRU President, who later took over as Chief Executive and Chairman of the Board at Murrayfield to help steady the ship during a tumultuous few months in 2005 when the governing body teetered on the brink of a constitutional meltdown – passed away peacefully on Christmas Day after a long battle with cancer. He was 80-years-old.

“Fred had been ill for some time but a deterioration in his condition required that he be admitted to the Marie Curie in mid-November this year,” explained his friend, Alex McCowan. “His illness was fought with great heart and courage and, not least, a great sense of humour.”

During his youth, McLeod was a better than average cricketer for Stewart’s FP [before the amalgamation with Melville College in 1973] and also a keen tennis player, but rugby was his great sporting passion. He played full-back for Stewart’s FP, and after hanging up his boots became a popular and respected administrator for his club, the Co-optimists invitational side and the SRU – rising to the office of President of each of those organisations.

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First elected to the SRU’s committee in 1981, McLeod – who was a chartered accountant by trade – rose through the ranks in time-honoured fashion. He was the SRU’s Senior Vice-President when the game went professional in 1995 and took a leading role in international discussions designed to establish a proper working structure for pro rugby.

As President the following year, he had to deal with the threatened collapse of the then Five Nations Championship after England were, for a while, expelled from the tournament in response to their decision to sign a unilateral TV deal with BskyB worth £85m over five years. He also had to contend with considerable internal strife in the Scottish game during a period when the club versus district debate raged wildly.

He was widely respected for his skills as a diplomat who could be courteous yet tough, and this was the reason he was called out of retirement in January 2005 after the old General Committee delivered a vote of no confidence against reforming Chairman David MacKay, and effectively forced out Chief Executive Phil Anderton, prompting uproar across the Scottish rugby community.

McLeod was a steadying influence during that spell while the Governance Working Party chaired by Sheriff Bill Dunlop drew up a new constitution for the SRU which remains in place today (although a recent review by Sir Bill Gammell and Norman Murray has advocated replacing that structure).

McLeod was replaced by Allan Munro as SRU Chairman in July 2005, and by Gordon McKie as Chief Executive the following month. He carried on as a non-executive director and Vice-Chairman on the Board at Murrayfield for another year and was a Trustee of the SRU thereafter.

He was a keen bowler in later life and served as President of Corstorphine Bowling Club.

His wife, Sandra, passed away a few years ago, and he is survived by his three children – Angie, Carrie and Graham – and his grandchildren Laura, Sophie, Chloe, Danny, Roxanne, Hayley and Lewis.

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About David Barnes 3911 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.


  1. True rugby man. Made it possible for me and some other rugby friends from the Netherlands to attend our first match at Murraufield in 1987. RIP Fred and all strength coming period.

  2. A true gentleman, respected friend and genuine character.

    Many of the good, decent things that Fred did for and on behalf of others will remain as untold tributes to a very fine man who epitomised the values and ethos of rugby.

  3. Sad news

    A delightful man, whom I was honoured to serve with on the SRU Board.
    One of the game’s great administrators.

    “his skills as a diplomat who could be courteous yet tough” is spot on: this year’s very successful Co-Optimists v East Lothian match happened because Freddie buttonholed me charmingly at Murrayfield the previous Autumn, and “suggested” maybe I could cause it to happen! How could I not help.

    RIP Freddie
    Thoughts to his family.

    • Keith you summed up Fred absolutely perfect. He was an inspiration to all who knew him at my club Stewart’s Melville Rugby Football Club. He will be greatly missed by all of the Scottish Rugby fraternity. And his other sporting interest bowls and cricket.

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