SCOTTISH RUGBY Chief Executive Mark Dodson has had his contact extended by 18 months to run until June 2025, which will be four months short of his 65th birthday.
Dodson has run Scottish Rugby since September 2011, when he replaced Gordon McKie. His tenure has coincided with Scotland’s two pro teams becoming more competitive, with the high-point being Glasgow Warriors’ triumph in the Guinness PRO14 – as it was then known – in 2015, and he is currently committed to a programme of increased investment in Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors with the aim of further closing the gap on (or at least keeping pace with) the major powers in European club rugby.
Results on the international stage have been patchy. He was just in the door when Scotland Men failed to progress from the group stage of a World Cup for the first time ever in 2011 so can hardly be held accountable for that. The national team then came within a controversial refereeing decision of reaching the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup, before once again being eliminated at the pool stage in 2019. There has been some excellent isolated successes in the Six Nations such as recent wins in London and Paris, but Scotland have finished in the top half of the table only twice, in 2013 and 2018, during Dodson’s time in office.
Meanwhile, Scotland Women defeated Colombia in February to qualify for their first World Cup since 2010, which will be played in New Zealand later this year, but have managed to win just three Six Nations matches in total (the last win being in 2018) since Dodson’s appointment.
Significant growth in income during his tenure, in line with the pattern globally, has been in tandem with spiralling costs, and it was concerning that the May 2020 accounts were published four months late and only after a £20m Covid support package from the Scottish Government was directed towards Murrayfield.
There was uproar in January 2020 when it emerged that Dodson had received aggregate emoluments of £933k for the year up to the 31st May 2019, more than double the £455k earned the previous year, with generous bonuses being awarded despite the SRU having lost an unfair dismissal case to former Director of Domestic Rugby Keith Russell during the previous 12 months.
There is concern amongst Scottish rugby’s grassroots about Dodson’s commitment to properly supporting and growing the game at that level, with Scotland continuing to have the smallest player base, by some considerable distance, of the top 11 rugby playing nations in the world.
Controversial initiatives such as the Agenda 3 funding programme, the creation of the Super6 league to sit above the traditional club game, the strategic partnership with Stade Nicois in France and the purchase of a share of American MLR franchise Old Glory DC have all been the source of considerable rancour.
However, Dodson is a man of iron will who has a track record of fighting his corner, both personally and on behalf of Scottish Rugby. His contract extension was unanimously agreed by the Board.
“The new agreement will enable Scottish Rugby to draw on Dodson’s extensive rugby and business experience, developed over 12-years leading the executive team at BT Murrayfield, as it navigates a series of operational and strategic priorities,” said a statement issued by Scottish Rugby this [Thursday] morning.
“He gives Scotland an experienced and respected voice around the table for the on-going global calendar discussions which will shape the immediate future of the game. He also sits on the Finance, Audit and Risk and Professional Game committees at World Rugby.
“Scottish Rugby is also continuing its rebuild phase post-pandemic and has bounced back incredibly well financially. This has enabled consistent development and investment in the sport.
“Dodson’s commercial experience and track record of finding new sources of investment in the game of rugby – having played a pivotal role in the long-term strategic partnership announced in March 2021 between CVC and Six Nations Rugby – will be called upon by Scottish Rugby as it continues to deepen its sponsorship portfolio against a challenging period of rising societal costs, interest rates and financial uncertainty.
“Dodson has over the last decade developed strong relationships in Government and across the world game.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Rugby Board Chairman, John Jeffrey, said: “Mark’s track record leading Scottish Rugby speaks for itself and as we enter what is likely to be a period of significant change and some uncertainty the Board unanimously agreed to ask him to continue for an additional 18-months.
“Through our governance review we are proposing changing how Scottish Rugby is structured and this is likely to take some time to establish. The Executive team, led by Mark, will be vital in helping this happen and it is important we can have continuity and experience around the table as that work progresses.
“The global picture in rugby invariably shapes what we can do locally in Scotland so, again, we felt it was right to have Mark in post, with his international experience at this point in the world game too.”
Scottish Rugby President, Ian Barr, added: “We are entering a key period in the history of Scottish Rugby as our governance proposals are developed and new bodies are created to deliver.
“It is vital Scottish Rugby continues to be successful on and off the pitch and it was obvious that Mark’s experience would be hugely beneficial to help us achieve this, as the new governance structures bed in.”
Scottish Rugby Vice-President Colin Rigby, who will take on the role of President following the AGM in August, said: “Having worked with Mark over the past couple of years I believe it is the right move to extend his tenure to allow Scottish Rugby to work through the coming years with business continuity.
“The sporting landscape moves at a rapid rate and it is important we maintain the positive momentum post-pandemic.
“It is a changing commercial landscape out there and Mark’s rugby and business knowledge, coupled with his Executive team, will be very valuable in the coming years.”
Dodson said: “To know there was unanimous support on the Board to extend my role for a further 18-months was a key factor in the decision to accept their offer to continue in post.
“I know how hard all our people work to deliver rugby across Scotland and on the international stage and I remain fully committed to leading them through what is likely to be a challenging and unpredictable period.
“The new governance structure will offer a fresh start for the way rugby is managed in Scotland.
“I am delighted to continue leading Scottish Rugby until 2025.”