John Jeffrey given Chairman role until June 2023

General Counsel Robert Howat is replaced by head of HR Shona Bell

John Jeffrey watching Edinburgh play Ulster on Monday night. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
John Jeffrey watching Edinburgh play Ulster on Monday night. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

THE Scottish Rugby Board has unanimously agreed to appoint former Scotland flanker John Jeffrey as its Chairman until July 2023, which will be a full three-year term in total from his initial appointment on an interim basis in May 2020. 

“I am delighted that JJ has been approved by the Board as Chairman,” said SRU President Ian Barr. “I could not think of a better person to chair Scottish Rugby at this important time. I very much look forward to working closely with him and together we plan to deepen our dialogue and engagement with our member clubs in the weeks and months ahead.

“JJ has been a real positive force since his appointment as Interim Chair back in May and we quickly realised we had an excellent, knowledgeable and highly respected rugby man who could take on the role permanently.”


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Jeffrey is also Chairman of the Six Nations Council and Executive Committee member for World Rugby.

“It’s been a very busy six months since I took on the Interim Chair role and it gave me a real insight into both the work being done at all levels of the game in Scotland and especially by the Board to tackle the challenges presented by Covid-19, whilst evolving and moving the organisation forward,” he said.

“I am passionate about the game in Scotland and I am proud to be given the unanimous backing of the Board to extend my term as a non-executive director and Chairman. I am looking forward to working closely with President Ian, the Board and Council and all our stakeholders to drive the sport forward.”

Meanwhile, General Counsel Robert Howat will leave the Board on 1st January 2021 and is being replaced by former head of HR, Shona Bell, who now has a new role as Director of People and Internal Communications.

A statement from Murrayfield also explained that: “Scottish Rugby’s Executive Leadership Team has been expanded to include Director of Rugby Development, Sheila Begbie and Director of High-Performance Rugby, Jim Mallinder in a move which formalises the regular operational and strategic input they have been contributing already.”

“They join CEO Mark Dodson, Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay, Finance Director Andrew Healy, Director of People & Internal Communications, Shona Bell to form the organisation’s Executive Leadership Team.

Healy is currently signed-off work so the financial function of Scottish Rugby is being overseen by Oliver Colling of Collinson Grant, a Manchester based management consultancy.

“The last year has given us a chance to see our business differently, make improvements and take a clear view of where we want to be in the future,” said Dodson.

“Sheila and Jim ensure we can strengthen our leadership group and that every level of rugby in Scotland continues to be fully represented.”

Meanwhile, a financial update has been issued to clubs with an outline of the unaudited accounts.  CLICK HERE


Scottish Rugby Board must show that they have listened

About David Barnes 3820 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.

22 Comments

  1. On the matter of the suitability of JJ as the chair I defer to Deloitte https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/za/Documents/governance-risk-compliance/ZA_TheRoleOfTheChairmanAsWellAsValueOfANonExecutiveChairman_04042014.pdf

    Specifically

    Functions of the Chairman
    The most obvious role played by the chairman is to govern the workings of the board, including directing the meetings of the board and acting as a conciliatory element when elements of the board differ.
    The chairman is obliged to use this power appropriately and not to influence the outcome of the meetings towards a specific agenda.
    The core functions of the chairman, among other, include:
    • setting the ethical tone for the board and the company
    • providing overall leadership to the board
    • formulating (with the CEO and company secretary) the yearly work plan for the board against agreed objectives, and playing an active part in setting the agenda for board meetings
    • presiding over board meetings and ensuring that time in meetings is used productively
    • managing conflicts of interest
    • acting as the link between the board and management and particularly between the board and the CEO
    • ensuring that complete, timely, relevant, accurate, honest and accessible information is placed before the board to enable directors to reach an informed decision
    • monitoring how the board works together and how individual directors perform and interact at meetings
    • ensuring that good relations are maintained with the company’s major shareholders and its strategic stakeholders, and presiding over shareholders’ meetings
    • upholding rigorous standards of preparation for meetings, and
    • ensuring that decisions by the board are executed.

    The key issue for Deloitte is the independence of the Chair. Nothing I’ve seen so far suggests that. Is he an independently minded person? What little I know of him – yes. Does he come independent of baggage – absolutely not.

  2. The use of a Manchester based consultant to assist with “overseeing” the finance function at Murrayfield is a prize example of how the business operates.

    No suitable person was available based in Scotland?

    Though I suppose if you use the same approach with the Pro teams we can expect little more.

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  3. I’m with the Bear on this, too many wanting to criticise and moan instead of offering alternative solutions. Jj is a true rugby man and its wise heads like his that are needed at a time like this. Theres a lot wrong with the SRU and deep structural issues to work to alleviate. JJ will help get things moving in the right direction, of that I am sure

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    • Hi MisterC

      Just to try and bring focus on where the issues arise for those who have commented…
      While it’s been suggested that JJ is not ‘independent’ given his current strong involvement, the prevailing concern remains the Board’s inability to EXPLAIN their decisions. If there was a lack of interest expressed in the role of chair, I for one would understand why, and how this might lead to JJ’s rapid appointment. Was this the case? if not, given JJ’s rapid appointment, what process lead to his appointment?
      Is Rob Howat leaving the Board an indication that he’s no longer the legal counsel? Was their a rationale to this move given the previous issues which arose from his advice to Mr Dodson?
      And admirable as Lesley Thomson unquestionably is, was it again a lack of qualified candidates that ensured her 3rd term on the Board. If not, what was the reason? Incidentally, she would have been a pretty good chair who ticked a few helpful boxes!

      Honestly, I think people just need explanations! And I would repeat once more that all those who take time to comment here are on the same side. I see the Board as the reason for any division while remaining 100% sympathetic to the challenge they, and all other unions, face.

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  4. Iain / Bear – no one would doubt your passion and honesty, but yet again your comments appear confused when it comes to matters of business, management, finance and legality. It would make a little more sense if those to whom you refer (other than JJ) had actually been appointed to the SR Board.

    Of course we all wish for the best across Scottish rugby’s wide landscape, but the extreme suddenness of the Kersknowe farmer’s confirmation in the chair suggests pressure from elsewhere for immediate moves towards a greater permanence at the top, going forward – most probably from the bank. If true, this infers that the Union’s finances must be even more fragile than previously feared, and in all probability, the Board had been backed up against the same wall as Arcadia and Debenhams in recent days.

    Aside from JJ’s clear and obvious conflicted personal situation arising from his 3 potentially incompatible but lucrative (£100K p.a. est.) concurrent positions, the other noteworthy item of concern is the presence of a Manchester-based external consultant to oversee the SRU’s finances. At what cost, at whose cost, on whose instructions, reporting to whom???? Manchester – now, there’s a coincidence!

    More smoke and mirrors from Murrayfield, I fear – and I wonder who wrote those weasel words attributed to Ian Barr!

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    • What is all the fuss about what JJ receives in remuneration. I’m sure if there is a conflict JJ will be first to address that situation. If the SRU’s finances are not in a good state it wouldn’t surprise me given what they and hundreds of businesses have been through. I’m not sure we can compare with Arcadia and Debenhams as both these companies were in trouble before Covid.

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      • Hi Iain

        I think Ron’s point is less about the amount involved but the incompatibility of JJ’s respective roles, and lack of clear messaging on this and other points regarding Board decisions. I think!!!

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  5. Iain / Bear – no one would doubt your passion and honesty, but yet again your comments appear confused when it comes to matters of business, management, finance and legality. It would make a little more sense if those to whom you refer (other than JJ) had actually been appointed to the SR Board.

    Of course we all wish for the best across Scottish rugby’s wide landscape, but the extreme suddenness of the Kersknowe farmer’s confirmation in the chair suggests pressure from elsewhere for immediate moves towards a greater permanence at the top, going forward – most probably from the bank. If true, this infers that the Union’s finances must be even more fragile than previously feared, and in all probability, the Board had been backed up against the same wall as Arcadia and Debenhams in recent days.

    Aside from JJ’s clear and obvious conflicted personal situation arising from his 3 potentially incompatible but lucrative (£100K p.a. est.) concurrent positions, the other noteworthy item of concern is the presence of a Manchester-based external consultant to oversee the SRU’s finances. At what cost, at whose cost, on whose instructions, reporting to whom???? Manchester – now, there’s a coincidence!

    More smoke and mirrors from Murrayfield, I fear – and I wonder who wrote those weasel words attributed to Ian Barr!

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  6. As I contribute little or nothing to the rugby community unlike other contributors here, some may feel that my comments likely don’t deserve much credence. But yet perhaps as an objective uninvolved lover of the game I can still have a considered view? Unlike a popular woke trend, I also would hope that all points of view can be looked at respectfully and responded to in a similar way.
    Like Iain Milne I am all for giving JJ an opportunity to prove his worth. His experience is almost unparalleled. However as some of the other comments observe it would still be good to know by what process the appointment was made. This is because the recent past is peppered with poor PR decisions and this is an opportunity for the Board to demonstrate clarity. I don’t think such questions – and others – are cheap shots unless they can be shown to be of no substance and ill-motivated, in a Trumpian way.

    For example, I agree that a comment should have been made on JJ’s other positions, which anyone familiar with sound accountability in Governance, are truly incompatible with his Chairmanship.

    Finally I would ask, does Robert Howat’s departure from the Board remove him as legal counsel? And if so, will Sheila Begbie fulfil that role? His sometime poor advice was once a matter of concern so now also needs clarity. The role is an important one.

    And, again undoubtedly competent as she is, has Lesley Thomson remained for a third term on the Board.

    Alll questions easily answered Iain, but not proffered.

    Regards to all. We ALL share the same wishes for our wonderful game.

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  7. The solution Iain is to search for a competent Chair. I listed the requirements the RFU are asking for. Perhaps you can share where you think JJ matches those outside of passion for the game and working in international rugby?

    Even if JJ was finally appointed through a competitive process, at least that could be positioned as he was the best person for the job.

    He lacks the serious business experience to lead a circa £60M business. This isn’t a club committee. And will have to contend with whatever change arrives in the form of the governance review.

    One interesting aspect to the musical chairs is – why do execs hold four chairs on the board? It’s not what Dunlop recommended.

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  8. Great appointment. Along with Shelia Begbie who has club and grass roots rugby at heart and Jim Mallinder we already have a far better balance on the Board, 3 rugby people.

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    • Iain / Bear – no one would doubt your passion and honesty, but yet again your comments appear confused when it comes to matters of business, management, finance and legality. It would make a little more sense if those to whom you refer (other than JJ) had actually been appointed to the SR Board.

      Of course we all wish for the best across Scottish rugby’s wide landscape, but the extreme suddenness of the Kersknowe farmer’s confirmation in the chair suggests pressure from elsewhere for immediate moves towards a greater permanence at the top, going forward – most probably from the bank. If true, this infers that the Union’s finances must be even more fragile than previously feared, and in all probability, the Board had been backed up against the same wall as Arcadia and Debenhams in recent days.

      Aside from JJ’s clear and obvious conflicted personal situation arising from his 3 potentially incompatible but lucrative (£100K p.a. est.) concurrent positions, the other noteworthy item of concern is the presence of a Manchester-based external consultant to oversee the SRU’s finances. At what cost, at whose cost, on whose instructions, reporting to whom???? Manchester – now, there’s a coincidence!

      More smoke and mirrors from Murrayfield, I fear – and I wonder who wrote those weasel words attributed to Ian Barr!

    • It’s been pointed out to me that Begbie & Mallinder have been appointed to the Senior Executive Team, not the Board.

      It would be interesting to know why these two rugby focussed folk weren’t previously part of the Senior Executive Team.

  9. Give him a chance. Shelia Begbie is a great appointment to the Board, she really wants to fight for club and grass roots rugby. JJ is an honest man who will do his best to right the wrongs that exist. He needs our support, it won’t be easy. He at least understands the game coming through all levels. Of course if you want to condemn his appointment from day one I can’t stop that but can we have solutions instead of firing cheap shots from the touch line. ?

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    • To dismiss those that are opposed to Mr Dodson and his overpaid chums and the way they are running the SRU as “firing cheap shots from the touchline” is not only disingenuous but also shows a complete lack of understanding of the mess we are in.

      Clubs and their members have consistently followed proper channels to register their disapproval and try to bring the SRU to account but have constantly been ignored. Probably by those in authority who also regard them as “firing cheap shots from the touchline”.

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      • My reference to cheap shots was aimed at the immediate condemnation of the appointment of JJ. We keep tearing ourselves apart instead of trying to work together.
        I am first to say the SRU have got a number of things badly wrong in recent times,they have also got a number of things right.
        The clubs have a right to feel aggrieved at the way the Board has conducted itself but they also have made poor decisions of their own, often due to self interest.
        I want to see things improve and see JJ’s appointment with one that gives me hope. With Ian Barr as president ( he will fight his corner) and the appointment of Sheila Begbie to the Board I see a better balance. I have had the pleasure of working with Sheila and given a chance she will deliver for the clubs. Having the director of rugby on the Board is also an important appointment, with Jim, Sheila, JJ, Ian Barr plus 3 Council members (most elected by the clubs) we are surely in a better position now. Of course time will tell and it will take time!
        I am sorry if upset people but I just can’t stand the immediate condemnations of JJ’s appointment just because he is deemed to be an appointment from inside. If you knew the man you would know that he will fight for what is best for Scottish rugby and is not a person who is in the pocket of anybody. ?

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  10. With Begbie & Mallinder now part of the Exec team, which will update the Board on the Super 6?

    Last I heard, this project is funded from the Rugby Development budget, but coaches report into the Performance Rugby structure.

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    • It’s been pointed out to me that Begbie & Mallinder have been appointed to the Senior Executive Team, not the Board.

      It would be interesting to know why these two rugby focussed folk weren’t previously part of the Senior Executive Team.

  11. No suggestion that he will be resigning his other positions which may prove to be a conflict of interest?

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  12. Well I can think of several reasons why this is a bad appointment. The RFU spec lays it out in stark detail.

    What selection process was carried out for this? It looks like this was decided some time ago. Very poor.

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