SRU President Ian Barr sets out stall for Standing Committee on Governance

New group which aims to find a workable solution to how Scottish Rugby should be run hopes to put recommendations in front of 2021 AGM

SRU President Ian Barr has revealed the make-up of the Council Standing Committee which will examine and make recommendations on the organisation's governance. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
SRU President Ian Barr has revealed the make-up of the Council Standing Committee which will examine and make recommendations on the organisation's governance. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTTISH RUGBY UNION President Ian Barr has stressed that the Council’s new Standing Committee on Governance will look into the thorny issue of how the game in this country is run from all angles and endeavour to come up with recommendations which will recognise the value and importance of every tier of the sport – from international/professional level right down to grassroots.

Gavin MacColl QC has been named as the Independent Chair of the new group, having previously fulfilled the same function for the Council’s last Governance Working Party, which was initially side-lined by the controversial (and unsuccessful) overhaul of the organisation recommended by Sir Bill Gammell and Norman Murray earlier this year, before ultimately being dumped in favour of the ill-fated Task Force headed by former President Dee Bradbury.

MacColl did not endear himself to many clubs with his tone at the Special General Meeting held in March 2019, which was called to decide where the ‘Club XVs’ of Super6 franchises should fit into the domestic league structure, but it is anticipated that he will be on firmer footing when dealing principally with governance.

The other members of the Standing Committee are:

  • Gordon Thomson – Chairman of Aberdeen Grammar and Scottish Rugby Council Member for the Premiership
  • Hazel Swankie – Secretary of Dunfermline and Scottish Rugby Council Member for Midlands Regions)
  • Ian Barr – President and Council Nominated Board Member
  • Julia Bracewell – Independent Non-Executive Board Member
  • Kenneth Knott – Referee’s Representative on the Scottish Rugby Council
  • Malcolm Offord – Chairman of London Scottish, Council Member for the Exiles and Council Nominated Board Member
  • Rob Flockhart – Past President Scottish Rugby Union between 2016 and 2018
  • Bobby Frazer – Vice President of Murrayfield Wanderers and Scottish Rugby Council Member for National Three
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The involvement of Flockhart is bound to raise some eyebrows. He endured a turbulent couple of years as President of the SRU, during which time he took a lead role in helping push through the highly divisive Agenda3/Super6 reforms for the club game. Flockhart insisted before leaving office in 2018 that he stood by that policy, although he recognised that it would take some work to properly bed the new structure in.

“I’ll make no apology for Agenda 3, I’ll make no apology for us driving forward change because that’s what I promised from the outset,” he said.

Flockhart also found himself caught between a rock and a hard place when he was left publicly supporting Chief Executive Mark Dodson during the Keith Russell affair in the expectation that the circumstances around that episode would be properly reviewed and lessons learned. Flockhart’s term as President had finished by the time Board Member Lesley Thomson’s internal review – which effectively amounted to a whitewash – was completed.

He is, however, a lawyer to trade, and has a long history in the game, both at club level and as manager of the Scotland A team in the early days of professionalism. He actually chaired the Council’s Standing Working Party for a period before resigning in 2009 over a push for the President to be given executive powers. It is understood that he is unhappy with how some of the contentious issues of his tenure at President were resolved and is keen to play his role in helping get governance back on track.

“Gavin and I, with the Council’s approval, have worked closely on deciding the membership of the group to ensure the Committee has a wide range of business, legal and rugby experience,” said Barr, who stepped up to the top job in August, after two years as Vice-President under Bradbury, in a letter to member clubs this morning. “As well as current members of the Scottish Rugby Council and Board, Rob Flockhart (Past President) has been invited on to the Committee due to his wealth of legal and governance expertise.

“As Clubs are aware, since assuming the role of President I have been committed to setting up a new group to review all aspects of Scottish Rugby’s governance,” added Barr. “The Scottish Rugby Council has now approved the membership and terms of reference of the Council’s new Standing Committee on Governance.

“The Committee will be tasked with making recommendations on a structure which is fit for purpose in the modern era and setting out clearly defined roles and responsibilities for all involved in the running of our game, in line with the Nolan principles of good governance.”

The Nolan Principles – which were set out by Lord Nolan in his 1995 as the ‘The Seven Principles of Public Life’ – consist of:

  • Selflessness
  • Integrity
  • Objectivity
  • Accountability
  • Openness
  • Honesty
  • Leadership

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“Governance can sound a bit abstract,” Barr continued. “But the governance of Scottish Rugby impacts on anyone and everyone involved in the game in Scotland so we must ensure there is a structure in place which allows all aspects of our organisation to operate effectively.

“Governance has been a contentious issue in the past, but we now have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to implement a governance model that will take Scottish rugby forward for the foreseeable future.

“What I committed to before I took up the position of President, was a fresh look at our governance, bearing in mind the challenges we face at all levels of the game, whether on the international stage or getting players out on the field for their local club.”

Scottish Rugby’s interim Chairman John Jeffrey indicated at August’s AGM [Part One] that this governance review will look to tailor the recommendations made by Gammell and Murray earlier in the year. However, Barr made it clear that while the Standing Committee will inevitably look into that piece of work, it will not provide the starting point or basis for their deliberations.

“Although the Committee and I will review the previous governance work already undertaken, it is vital we also take into consideration the new environment we find ourselves in post Covid-19,” he said.

“It’s important that the Committee work effectively and quickly to come forward with our thoughts, with an aim to present recommendations to member Clubs ahead of the 2021 AGM.

“The Committee will meet within the coming weeks and will consider which other people, and groups, need to be engaged with to assist in reaching the final recommendations which will ultimately be presented to our member Clubs.

“I am confident that with the contribution of the Committee and the support of the Clubs we can find a suitable structure to drive our game forward for years to come.

You can read the Terms of Reference of the Committee HERE.


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David Barnes
About David Barnes 2051 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.

5 Comments

  1. Well done Ian Barr for getting this agreed, given the extent of infighting and level of outright opposition to anything like an independent review we have seen in recent times.

    Good range of experience in the group with at least two members having a lot to prove if they want their reputations enhanced.

    Whatever the outcome for me it is back to my VP campaign message that it must ensure strategy (we have none), scrutiny (we have had very little) and advocacy (we have a huge comms team but it and our execs do little to sell our great game, particularly the club game where so any great but unheralded things happen).

    It must have everyone working in union.

    And finally even if we only adhere to one Nolan Principle, lets make it the first one: “selflessness”.

  2. Knowing some of the individuals well on the committee I am hopeful we will get a resolution to this mess and allow Scottish Rugby to move forward as one. As I’ve said before there have been mistakes and I’m sure some questions will remain unanswered but there is also a lot of good things going on at all levels. We are a small country punching above its weight on the rugby front and we all need to work together. 🐻

  3. Well marked against the Nolan Principles it’s 0/7 so it shouldn’t be hard to find ways of improving on this. But will they?

  4. Hhhmmmm……

    “The papers and deliberations of the Governance Committee shall remain confidential and shall not be disclosed or circulated other than as provided for in these Terms of Reference, unless the consent of the Independent Chair has been obtained.”

    • For clarification, the above-mentioned Terms of Reference have doubtless been framed in order to avoid interference and pressure from certain prominent “individuals” at Murrayfield who are not members of the Governance Committee….

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