John Jeffrey appointed interim Chairman of Scottish Rugby Board

1990 Grand Slam winnner will take over from Colin Grassie with immediate effect at a time of significant upheaval in the game

John Jeffrey has been appointed interim chair of the Scottish Rugby Board. Image: David Gibson/Fotosport
John Jeffrey has been appointed interim chair of the Scottish Rugby Board. Image: David Gibson/Fotosport

THE long-running saga of Scottish Rugby governance took another twist over the weekend with a hastily convened Board meeting agreeing to Colin Grassie stepping down with immediate effect and 1990 Grand Slam hero John Jeffrey taking over the role on an interim basis until a full-time appointment is made, which is not likely to be before this time next year.

Grassie had previously announced that he would be leaving the post at this year’s AGM – which is currently scheduled to take place 15th August although that is under review as a result of the social distancing measures which have been enforced due to the Covid-19 pandemic – however, with the PRO14’s deal with CVC being wrapped up at the end of last week it has been decided that a change of face should happen sooner than that.

Jeffrey is an experienced operator in rugby’s political circles. He has been a co-opted member of the Scottish Rugby Council since 2010, a member of the Six Nations Council since 2012, and its  chairman since last July.  He has also represented Scottish Rugby at World Rugby since 2010 where he sits on the Executive Committee (since 2016) and chairs the Rugby Committee (since 2013).


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His business background – at a time of significant upheaval – is not quite so clear. His day job is running the family farm at Kerseknowe, near Kelso.

Critics of Scottish Rugby’s recent governance performance will have been hoping for an appointment from outside the organisation, but that is not a straightforward task in the current economic and social climate.

The Nominations Committee for Jeffrey’s appointment consisted of SRU President Dee Bradbury, Independent Non-Executive Directors Lesley Thomson QC and Julia Bracewell, and SRU Council Nominated Non-Executive Director Graeme Scott. Grassie previously chaired this group but it is not clear whether Jeffrey will now assume that role in the search for his long-term replacement.

Jeffrey had a glittering career as a player. He earned 40 caps for Scotland between 1984 and 1991 playing out of Kelso, and was also selected for the British & Irish Lions in 1986 for their match against the Rest of the World and for the 1989 Tour to Australia.

“I was very pleased to accept the role of Chairman at Scottish Rugby,” said the 61-year-old. “Our sport faces significant challenges just now and I hope I can put my experience to good use for the benefit of Scottish Rugby and the whole rugby community in Scotland. Under Colin’s Chairmanship the Board and Scottish Rugby made progress in important areas and I look forward to continuing that work.”

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Grassie joined the Board of Scottish Rugby as an Independent Non-Executive Director in 2012 and became its Chairman in January 2017. It was announced last July that he was to stay on into a third term [against the recommendations of the governance framework laid out by Sheriff Bill Dunlop in 2005] until next summer, so it came as a shock when he announced in April that he was going to step down at the AGM.

“I previously indicated my intention to step down in August this year however with the swift and successful completion of the CVC investment into PRO14 and by extension into Scottish Rugby, now is a perfect time to hand over the reins,” he said.

“I have been privileged to be an Independent Non-Executive Director and Chairman of the Board at Scottish Rugby in a sport I love at a crucial period of its development.

“We have achieved many great things over the years as a Board and as a sport. Whilst noting we have, like all sports, challenges all around.

“I leave with great pride and gratitude to my fellow Board members past and present and acknowledge the hard work of all our staff and volunteers, who do so much to support our great game.

“I am also very pleased to be able to hand the Chairman role over to John Jeffrey, an outstanding player, leader and sports administrator.

“With JJ’s knowledge of the game, and wealth of experience at Six Nations and World Rugby, the Scottish Rugby Board will be very well served.

“We face, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, significant challenges as a sport but I know the Board at Scottish Rugby will remain focused on guiding the whole sport from the grassroots to the national teams through this crisis in the most sustainable way it can.

“May I finally pass on my thanks to colleagues in other Unions with whom I have always appreciated working closely over the years.”

Scottish Rugby President Dee Bradbury said: “I’d like to firstly thank Colin Grassie for his contribution to Scottish Rugby over the past eight years, especially during his time as Chairman. I know he cared deeply about the sport and has led the Board as Scottish Rugby made real progress in recent years.

“We are fortunate to welcome as our new Chairman John Jeffrey, who will bring his own significant experience and knowledge to the role. He joins at a challenging time for our sport but I know he will be an asset to the Board and Scottish rugby in the months ahead.”

Vice-President Ian Barr, who is set to take over as President at the next AGM [whenever that might be], said: “I’d like to welcome JJ into his new role as Chairman of Scottish Rugby. I know he will bring his knowledge and passion to the role and is respected across the game in Scotland. I look forward to working with him in the months ahead.  I’d also like to thank Colin for his contribution to the game over the past eight years.”


Updated: Decision-Making Matrix shines a light on SRU governance failings

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1860 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.

11 Comments

  1. I’ll try again, goodness knows what is controversial about the following that seems to have been ‘spiked’ or with a moderator for some reason.
    Exiled as I am in Foreign parts I am only aware of the more obvious aspects at Roseburn Street thanks in the main to the excellent articles in the Offsideline; the additional informative ‘chat’ at the Bar over a couple of beers regrettably being but an unfulfilled wish.
    I am consequently somewhat surprised at the apparent lack of interest or support for JJ. He was certainly a popular lad in his playing days so I can only assume he has ‘gone native’: this thought submitted in the certainty that clarity will be forthcoming from the usual sources.

    • George

      There can be a delay in posts appearing in the site. I’ve been caught out a couple of times.

      JJ becoming Chair is an interesting development. No one questions his rugby credentials. The question is what competencies and capability dies he bring to the role of chair at a critical time?

      One really interesting aspect of the Gammell Murray review was the reference to the Nolan principles. These are Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability Openness, Honesty and Leadership. Now apply those to current governance at the SRU and what do you see?

    • Further to serious questions regarding satisfaction of Lord Nolan’s noble principles for conduct in public life mentioned elsewhere in Dom Ward’s pretty accurate comments are issues of 1. independence, 2. competence / capability, 3. conflict(s) of interest and 4. baggage.

      As a long-serving (self-serving?) Murrayfield establishment figure, John Jeffrey appears to carry little of the first but significant amounts of the third and fourth-mentioned issues, while even after many years of flitting around in various lucrative high-profile “grace & favour” positions on behalf of the SRU, the jury must remain out on the second issue.

      Consequently it might be a tad over-ambitious to expect anything other than more of the same old shit from the slightly re-jigged SRU Junta going forward!

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  2. thank goodness its only temporary.

    JJ has no qualifications for this role, and none to find a successor. I’d add that if anyone has any issues with how the laws are applied on the filed of play, JJ has had that under his wing for some years. Buck stops there. He hasn’t even been good on the rugby side of things.

    Loved him to bits as a player. He has not proven to be much of an administrator

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    • Just because someone has been a superb player of world renown does not mean they will be an expert administrator.
      Having a huge experience of start-up businesses I am already all to aware that moving from “shop floor” to bossing your own business can prove to be a traumatic & all too often over ambitious leap.

  3. Exiled as I am in Foreign parts I am only aware of the more obvious aspects at Roseburn Street thanks in the main to the excellent articles in the Offsideline; the additional informative ‘chat’ at the Bar over a couple of beers regrettably being but an unfulfilled wish.
    I am consequently somewhat surprised at the apparent lack of interest or support for JJ. He was certainly a popular lad in his playing days so I can only assume he has ‘gone native’: this thought submitted in the certainty that clarity will be forthcoming from the usual sources.

  4. “There are few more impressive sights than a Scotsman on the make” (J.M. Barrie (1860 – 1937).

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  5. Also appointed “Independent Non-Executive Director”, so to fulfil that “Independent” bit, I guess this means he’ll immediately be standing down from his roles on the 6 Nations Committee and World Rugby Council.

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    • Pegi – I’m in agreement with this as a first necessary step for JJ’s hopefully stand in role.

      How can a Chair or non executive be a part of a board which is responsible for appointing him to posts and overseeing that he successfully represents Scottish rugby in these posts? This sort of contradiction is rather familiar in the SRU’s governance practices.

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