Mark Dodson says he needs to be convinced that Gregor Townsend is ‘the right voice’ to take Scotland forward

SRU chief executive and the Scotland coach to hold potentially decisive talks this week about a new contract

Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Mark Dodson. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Mark Dodson. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

MARK Dodson has insisted that Gregor Townsend will only be offered a new deal  if he is convinced that the head coach can continue to make progress with the national team. Speaking on the BBC Scotland’s Rugby Podcast, the SRU chief executive acknowledged that the players want Townsend to stay on, and said that talks would be held this week.

“We’ve had a process this time – which Gregor has been aware of – looking at what is the right voice to take us forward from 2023 onwards,” Dodson said. “It’s been less about Gregor’s track record in what he’s done in tournaments up until the Six Nations and about what’s right for this group of players, who are going to be in transition from ’23 to ’27. What’s the right voice?

“As part of that we’ve done a huge amount of due diligence. We’ve spoken to coaches all over the globe about how they see Scotland and, if they were able to do the job, how would they undertake the task. We’ve finished that due diligence process.

“I was clear with Gregor right from the get-go that this is what we were going to do – we were going to talk to coaches all over the world. He was also free to talk to people about his own future, and things have come out about conversations that have happened in France and potentially elsewhere. This is entirely expected. It’s not his first rodeo and it’s not mine, we understand this is the way the world works.

“I’m speaking to Gregor this week and we’ll see where we go.”

Townsend, who has been in the post since succeeding Vern Cotter in 2017, led Scotland to third place in this year’s Six Nations thanks to wins over England, Wales and Italy. After saying he was “pleased but not delighted” with that outcome, Dodson – himself due to remain in office until the summer of 2025 – insisted he had to be convinced that the incumbent was the right man to lead the squad to greater achievements.

“We know how the players feel,” he continued. “The players have thrived under Gregor, we’re aware of that.

“What I’ve got to do and what [SRU performance director] Jim Mallinder’s got to do, we’ve got to zone all that out – what the supporters feel, what the websites feel, what the players feel almost – and actually take a holistic view, coolly and dispassionately and have a look on paper. What is the best voice to take us forward?

“How do we improve? How do we stop this being a glass ceiling? How do we get to the next level?

“If we believe that is Gregor or we believe that is somebody else, that’s the job I’m paid to do. In terms of support for Gregor inside the camp, that’s pretty clear.

“We’ve known each other a long time. We haven’t always seen eye to eye over things. We have a very good working relationship, but he’s his own man and I’m mine. The most important thing is there’s a trust and a belief we will do things the right way.”

Townsend, whose present contract expires after this autumn’s Rugby World Cup, said in January that he had been approached by France about working with their national team, but denied a rumour linking him to Leicester Tigers. “I did get a call from France to see if I would be interested,” he said at a pre-Championship press conference.

“I said I was not prepared to go into any discussions until after the Six Nations. I have had no contact with Leicester. At all. People may want to get in contact with you or your agent because they know your contract is up and, yes, my contract is coming to an end at the end of the year.”

Auckland Blues coach Leon MacDonald is understood to be one of the potential alternatives to Townsend, who has said he would be keen to stay on in the job.

About Stuart Bathgate 1361 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

29 Comments

  1. While the “process” is referred to repeatedly, there is little or no substantive information as to what that might involve, beyond speaking to people all over the place. Details, please!

    Over to member clubs’ representatives to ask pertinent questions of the relevant people within the new “all-singing, all-dancing” governance structure.

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  2. Rather than Mark Dodson being convinced that Gregor Townsend is ‘the right voice’ to take Scotland forward it should be a case of Gregor Townsend being convinced that Mark Dodson is.

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  3. its a good, thorough process. But now isn’t the time to be waving it about it in public.

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      • sorry Ron, forgot, only you know anything about anything. How dare I express an opinion from many decades of experience of which you know sod all

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      • Come on, Schleptic – don’t be so shy, just answer Ron’s perfectly reasonable question.
        What do you know about the process you are so adamantly defending?

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      • It seems decades of experience doesn’t always equate to knowledge, manners or common sense.

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    • The fact is whether people, or rather probably you, accept it or not if you broadcast your comments under a pseudonym there is always an element of doubt as to the claim that goes with it and that rather negates a defence of ‘many decades of experience of which you know sod all’ how can the decades and experience be attributed to a nom de guerre: just a thought.

  4. It is a pity such due diligence was not performed with Dobsons appointment because if you look at the finances of the SRU the growth in income was gift wrapped, naming of the stadium. selling our stake in the Celtic League and the six nations. Do not forget the settings of their own targets knowing full well these deals were in the offing and giving himself a £500,000.00 bonus for doing so well. He actively tried to crush the players union, silenced all dissenters with compromise agreements until Finns father stood up to him. He was fat before he came and he has got even fatter and extremely wealthy out of a Scottish Rugby Union that is meant to represent the best interests of the amateur community rugby clubs of Scotland. Every decision made by Dobson has been to what suits Dobson and his cronies like MacKay who after being discovered very quickly at Celtic FC pops up in another top job in rugby. The administrators of world rugby are a self serving clique and are driven by commercial greed to ensure that they can bank roll all of their over paid positions.

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    • goodness me, what a load of nonsense

      The stadium naming was not in the offing when Dodson was appointed, He was a main player on obtaining it.
      Ditto CVC payments. He does not award himself bonuses, the SRU remuneration committee do

      Now I will agree he totally mishandled Russell Snr’s case, and he has other faults but please let us deal in facts otherwise you only discredit any valid points you make.

      Chief Execs like head coaches have a shelf life. Both will reach theirs soon enough, be careful of what you wish for. In the meantime have a look at other unions. Some doing fine, others quite near home in turmoil and not just financially due to very poor management. We have done well

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      • Au contraire – we are sceptic, Septic!!!

        TOL readers should read your comments with caution, because they are mostly inaccurate (or simply uninformed rubbish, as you have termed Alan’s comment). MD was responsible for none of the big deals to which you refer – nor indeed for the unmentioned Scottish Government’s substantially OTT, unjustified & mis-used Covid bail-out dosh; £20m total. All that at a time when the SRU’s bankers were refusing to provide extended loan finance, and the Union’s (previous, significantly!) auditors were refusing to sign off the YE2020 accounts on the essential going concern basis, because towards the end of 2020, the SRU was to all intents & purposes insolvent, unable to meet its financial obligations. Your Mancunian man was nearly impaled on the buffers of Union bankruptcy!

        In reality, a stadium naming rights deal was originally under consideration / being pursued over 20 years ago, back in the days when Phil Anderton was Marketing & Communications Director, under CEO Bill Watson. BT’s top people (whom we knew well from work with the WRU) were keen at that time to follow up on their then successful, central involvement with the (extremely grateful!) WRU at the financially-troubled Millenium Stadium.

        Equally, those of us who are privileged to know the underlying facts of the CVC deal(s) are well aware that although they may have claimed otherwise, the SRU’s preening pair of “top” executives (ok, you name them…) benefited hugely from piggy-backing on the efforts & initiatives of leading colleagues from other governing bodies & Unions who took relative negotiations through the money mens’ welcoming, open door.

        So there, nice work if you can get it with a great big bonus to follow, simply for going through the motions! That said, you are correct about management / governance failures, especially in public re the “Russell” saga (where there were faults on all sides) and also about the ineptitude of the remuneration committee – mutual back-scratching is clearly an endemic feature of life around EH12’s lucrative corridors of power!

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      • @Ein Stein
        the fact that naming rights were considered yonks back is irrelevant. It didn’t happen. What did happen was that the blazers general committee nearly bankrupted the SRU, then a palace coup against Fireworks Phil etc – anyone who knew how to run a BUSINESS. We ended up with Dodgy David Murrays pal as CEO, and he ran costs down but was clueless how to grow revenues. And so Dodson, who grew revenues and funded pro rugby properly. You can say what you want, Dodson was in post when naming rights were awarded, and when CVC came on board etc. That is a fact

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      • It seems so much is being misunderstood either deliberately or otherwise to pursue a dubious argument..

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  5. Would have been useful if such criteria had been applied to the CEO position….our age grade and grassroots rugby wouldn’t be in such a shambles and maybe we wouldn’t have folk putting up the bunting for scraping a fortunate win against Italy to make the heady heights of a second third place finish in 23 years…..

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  6. Hmmm .I wonder if Mr Dodgson’s board put him through the same process every 4 years. Mr Dodson has been in post for 12 years in that time Scottish Rugby teams performance been patchy at best . Are more people playing rugby in Scotland – don’t think so . Are our age grade teams doing well and talent pipeline producing the players we need – don’t think so . What has been our most successful teams to date – Glasgow under Townsend , senior men’s international team ( record wise in terms of % games won ) under guess who- Townsend . Seems to me it’s the only bit he got right ! Don’t get me wrong a change can often be a great thing but it can also be a disaster – look at who England got rid of only to find they are great coaches who powered Ireland to number one team in world . It’s the structures the processes , the culture and the stability that Ireland have created that has driven the performances at all levels . That sits firmly with Mr Dodson ( who had the audacity to pick up the largest pay check of any CEO in rugby in 2020 ! If it is time freshen things up and break the glass ceiling let’s start at the top because that just might be where it is !

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  7. It would be a mistake of enormous proportions to offer Townsend a new contract. He’s had years to achieve where we are today and has muddled selections, strategies and player relations along the way, all with Scotland’s best squad of talented players in a generation or two! Players wanting a coach to stay can also be a red flag that the coach isn’t being too demanding with his players. At this juncture and at this stage of development, the players need a new coach. It’s time for new blood! And dare I say…just look at Glasgow and witness what a good coach can achieve in a relatively short time.

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    • Glasgow is a great example. Also noteworthy that Glasgow fans and Scottish pundits were largely dismissive of Smith taking the helm, questioned his track record and many retrospectively doubted the decision to discard Wilson when Franco Smith was all Dodson could line up. Just goes to show how much fans and pundits know about the game…

      With regard to Townsend, it’s a finely balanced decision but I agree the SRU should be making sure we get the appointment right. Not confident Gregor can help us break that glass ceiling but the coaching group needs to be looked at in the round – some of our slumps under GT came when we had assistants in place who were not making the grade. Unless my memory is ropey we seemed to be on an up curve when Dan MacFarland, Steve Tandy and Brad Moar/Pete Horne joined the coaching team at various points, but declined when Danny Wilson and AB Zondagh were in place. So perhaps the most important job for the new head coach is putting in place the best possible coaching team. I must admit I think Scotland have a good coaching team at the moment…

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  8. Would the dictionary-shredding MD recognise due diligence in the realms of international rugby coaching if it jumped up and bit into just one of his chins?

    Step forward the EH12 Custodians “task force”… ….failing whom, some people in white coats!

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  9. This is exactly the way any business would analyse a key decision. Hats off the Dodson for doing his homework. We need a coach with a plan that will move Scotland forward. Is it Townsend or someone else. Lets do the homework and then decide. Happy players are great (does that include Finn?) but sometimes a happy staff is because everyone is in their comfort zone and not being fully challenged. Being liked and being a good manager are not always the same thing. Being respected is the key.

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    • Yes hats off for doing your job. Although given the performance of our teams, he hasn’t done it particularly well

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      • Ah now, he’s been doing something well – he was on 933,000 pa in 2019, cut to 455.000 during covid (but that doesn’t include bonuses, which are opaque), and back to that level now. Meanwhile, the president of the IRFU who is eclipsed by MD’s wonderfulness has to get by on €220,000

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  10. While not unsympathetic to some of the adverse comments about Dodson and the SRU, the appointment of coach for the national team is of crucial importance and Mr Dodson seems to be adopting a sensible analytical approach for either renewal or the appointment of a new coach. Some people seem to think that taking into account the results in the group stage would be unfair to Townsend, given that South Africa and Ireland are in Scotland’s group. However, that is down to the seedings decided a while ago and not on current form. The seedings are based on past results when Townsend was in charge. Personally, I believe the slight improvement in form is thanks to Russell’s performances and influence, coupled with the decline of Wales and England. Qualifying from the WC group should be the acid test.
    Townsend’s original appoitment seemed to be rushed as the SRU didn’t want to risk losing him abroad and Cotter, denied by a referee’s mistake from taking Scotland through to a semi-final at the 2015 World Cup, was summarily cast aside.

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    • Thanks for the lecture, but cutting to the chase – is Dodson the man to be sitting in judgement of the national coach, or leading any approach in this connection, analytical or otherwise?

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      • Glad you enjoyed it. De facto he’s the CE in place and presumably it’s covered by his job description, whether we like it or not. One would hope that he reports to the inner circle, including rugby man John Jeffrey, and a course of action is agreed for him to implement. To his credit, he doesn’t hide behind a nom de plume.

  11. Why is this being discussed now? Has a 2nd successive non qualification from RWC GROUP already been factored in?
    The last reason for extending Townsend’s contract should be that the players want it. Hogg will be retired by next 6N.

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    • It’s being discussed now because after the World Cup most of the best coaches in the world will already be contracted and we’ll have lost the opportunity to make a decisions on our terms.

      Leon MacDonald is rumoured to be lined up for an assistant coach with the ABs. If we want him to replace Townsend we need to offer him the job now, not start talking to candidates in October.

  12. Wow. Mark Dodson talking sense shocker 😁

    It’s a big call and I’m half to see recognition that the side are in transition.

    Of course GT will need to want to stay as well.

  13. I know lots of people don’t have much time for Dodson, but that actually seems to me to be a sensible approach.

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    • The ‘Lesser Spotted ‘ Dodson has come out of hiding .
      So that’s what he looks like .

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