Mark Dodson resigns as Chief Executive of Scottish Rugby

The business reported a £10.5m loss in the last financial year

Mark Dodson has announced his resignation after 12 and a half years as chief executive of Scottish Rugby. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Mark Dodson has announced his resignation after 12 and a half years as chief executive of Scottish Rugby. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

MARK DODSON has agreed to resign as Chief Executive of Scottish Rugby Limited [SRUL], the operating arm of the Scottish Rugby Union, bringing to an end a tumultuous 12 and a half years in the Murrayfield hot-seat. He will leave the business  in the summer and it is understood that the recruitment process for the next CEO has already begun.

News of the 63-year-old’s departure comes just over 18 months after he controversially signed a contract extension which was supposed to run until June 2025.

That new deal was agreed 16 months before his previous contract was due to run out. It was one of the last significant acts of the SRUL Board under the Chairmanship of Dodson’s long-time ally John Jeffrey, before a new governance structure was installed to ensure better scrutiny and accountability within the business.


Analysis: Scottish Rugby’s £10.5m loss – it’s worse than you think

Analysis: Mark Dodson’s AGM presentation provided more questions than answers

Jim Mallinder to leave Scottish Rugby Performance Director role


While Dodson stated at the time of his contract extension that “the new governance structure will offer a fresh start for the way rugby is managed in Scotland [and] I am delighted to continue leading Scottish Rugby until 2025”, there have been doubts since the creation of the new set-up in November 2022 about how he would cope.

His previous all-powerful position within the governing body certainly appeared significantly diminished at last November’s AGM when his approach to dealing with the Siobhan Cattigan tragedy was shown to be wildly out of step with new SRUL Chairman John McGuigan.

However, it is understood that it is concerns about the finances which have been the key driver behind Dodson’s early departure from the business.

The SRU accounts for the year up to the end of May 2023 reported a £10.5m loss, which Dodson brazenly tried to explain away by labelling core operating costs such as player wages as strategic investments, and by promising that there will be jam tomorrow without any realistic cause for expectation that things can improve unless there is a fundamental change to the business model.

At the AGM, Dodson asserted: “By their nature, the accounts are a complicated read but they need to be seen in the context of a four year business cycle which encompasses annual variants that distorts individual yearly performance.

“So, last year’s major surplus, reflecting the recognition of the proceeds of the Six Nations private equity transaction, is followed by this year’s shortfall as that credit begins to unwind.

“But the four-year cycle which has historically ended with rising revenues will demonstrate that your Union is on a sound financial footing, providing money to develop the game at every single level.”

This was clearly illogical bluster given that last year (when Murrayfield hosted three home Six Nations matches and four Autumn Tests) should have been the high tide mark for the cycle. Meanwhile, the current year takes in the significant costs of a World Cup and its build-up, whilst offering the revenue from only two home Six Nations matches and no November games, meaning there is real concern that the deficit is going to be even bigger.

It is clear that what has really happened is that the CVC and Scottish Government Covid bail-out windfalls have been frittered away in an attempt to disguise a reckless business model.

Dodson’s determination to spend his way out of trouble in the hope that professional and international rugby is suddenly going to become a magical money making tree has left Scottish Rugby facing a major squeeze at a time when finance is desperately needed to invest in a decaying stadium (which has been maintained below the level of depreciation for the last decade) and a struggling community game (which has also been neglected), not to mention a professional game with a voracious appetite for cash.

 

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Dodson said: “I’ve been reflecting post the 2023 World Cup and felt it was the right time to bring my Scottish Rugby role to a close and begin looking forward to the next chapter in my career.

“With several key organisational elements now in place such as the new governance structure becoming operational, working closely with the new Scottish Rugby Limited Board Chair John McGuigan and our national and professional teams settled I felt it was only right to make my intentions known.

“As work progresses on our new 10-year strategy and given I wasn’t going to be in post to see it delivered beyond 2025 I think it’s right and appropriate to give space for the new CEO to come in and take that important work forward.

“I’ve hugely enjoyed my time with Scottish Rugby so far and remain fully committed to our objectives in the coming months. Being Chief Executive of this great organisation for 13 years has been a privilege.”

McGuigan said: “Mark has given over a decade of his career to Scottish Rugby so it is understandable that this was a significant decision.

“It will though enable us to progress the recruitment for the new Performance Director and his own successor as Chief Executive in an open and transparent manner and for that I’d like to thank him.

“Mark has made a significant contribution to Scottish Rugby during his tenure including navigating the Covid pandemic. I’d like to thank him personally for working with me and welcoming me into Scottish Rugby.

“The SRL Board and I will continue to draw on Mark’s extensive knowledge and expertise in the coming months until a date for Mark’s departure, which will be over the summer, is agreed.”


SRU AGM: Chair John McGuigan issues apology to the family of Siobhan Cattigan

About David Barnes 3817 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.

57 Comments

  1. A great day for Scottish Rugby and rugby in Scotland. I only hope that this is the first result of the new governance structure and a clear out of the grifters who have been bleeding the sport dry and destroying the game we love.

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  2. The game is on it’s knees and like a professional boxer who has already had several standing counts, it looks like in the not too distant future, Scottish Rugby is doomed to be ‘knocked out!’ Very few state schools are interested in promoting rugby. There is evidence to the effect that some ‘fee paying schools’, are no longer concentrating resources on sport, so where are we getting the future ‘player base’ from? Clubs who run mini, midi and youth sections are not being over run by hordes of youngsters wanting to play. In reality, when you look throughout the country at adult rugby I would estimate that no more than 3000 males and 800 women can be classed as players. Many of those will who only want an occasional ‘social game’ or are just too stubborn to hang up their boots. The game has not grown in any area other than women’s rugby in the past 30 years. How can you expect such a small base of players to be the roots and branches of a team capable of taking on the larger rugby playing nations?
    Will the civil litigation cases being pursued throughout the Courts mean the final demise of the game? If they are successful, who will insure players against future injury? Whilst it is not every parents idea of keeping their kids occupied, how many parents are urging their kids now to play their electronic games rather than put their boots on and face potential life threatening injuries.
    Is Dodson to blame for all this? I would not say so all of it, but reflecting to when I purchased my debenture seats in 1990/91, that are now worthless, in those days a ticket cost £4. When professionalism came along the price increased to £6 and now the price is in the region of £80. Is it value for money? Perhaps yes, when we win, but when we lose? !”£$%. Does anyone working for the SRU deserve a salary of nearly £1 million per annum.
    I pose the question, ‘Should we revert to the game being amateur in Scotland?’

  3. Well that will be Super6 scrapped after the last year of the Franchises. Hopefully the next person along with the replacement for Mallinder have rugby playing rugby at the centre of their thoughts and clear the decks of the management who have put Scottish rugby back a generation from the mess and not fit for purpose Acadmies. There is talent out there but when the lead of the Academy is only interested in yes people and not the right people it was always going to fail.

  4. Not disappointed to see him go, whilst a few on this site are I presume tongue in cheek with their compliments.

    Whilst there may have been a few rugby successes, I think his main problem in terms of getting the support and credibility from the grass roots rugby fans has been his obscenely large salary and yet a complete lack of financial focus within the organisation. This has left a legacy of a £10.5m loss last year which the incoming CEO will now have to deal with. This will require some painful cuts to expenditure to restore financial viability to the game.

    His comments as quoted on the BBC website relating to the 2023 accounts and the £10.5m loss paints a picture of a man clearly deluded – “I think the business is performing really, really well.”

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  5. I can’t understand most of the harping comments on here. Dodson is not perfect but biy he moved the game and our revenues and finances massively forward. One of the reasons we can’t get our act together to drive the game forward is we spend more time fighting and bickering than we do looking to the future. If half that negative energy was devoted to where we go and we all went there together we’d begin to fix the issues that will drive Rugby in Scotland forward.
    Well done Mr Dodson thank you we are significantly ahead under your leadership now lets stop the infighting and take TOGETHER the extra steps that are needed.

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    • Interesting treatise there RodB

      The old adage is it takes two to tango. So it’s not all down to those with “negative energy”.

      It’s called having a different point of view. And as the owners of Scottish Rugby – something we had to fight to get the SR Board to recognise – we are perfectly entitled to do so.

      A sports body isn’t a dictatorship and sadly a lot of what’s been done in the past smacks of that attitude.

      That Mark Dodson has strengths as a CEO isn’t doubted. But this attempt at hagiography doesn’t wash. The heavy lifting with the finances was done by Gordon McKie. MD was fobttunate to land some very lucrative sponsorship, receive unbelievable funds from the Scottish Govt (not available to other sports) and sell the family silver.

      The ticks are outweighed by the minuses in my view but still wish the guy a safe and long retirement

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      • We need to get to a position where the majority rule and everyone falls in behind that majority whilst also being able to offer constructive criticism. I won’t engage in bickering with you that’s what is wrong. We are a tiny sport and don’t have the time or resources for all the infighting. Sadly no-one in their right mind would take on the CEO role as they are on a hiding to nothing.

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    • Whose accounts have you been looking at.How you can say finances have improved when as well documented on this site whilst revenues increased over the last 5 years, costs increased even more resulting in a £10.5m loss. This is a dire financial position for a business with revenues of £60-70m.

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  6. As D.Reem sang
    Things can only get better .
    .
    Then Yazoo sang .
    The only way is up .
    .this guy held too much power in SRU and was only interested in himself
    Great day for many rugby people in Scotland

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  7. The Murrayfield naming rights deal did a lot of the heavy lifting for Dodson’s reputation. Right place, right time. Anyone else in the post could’ve brokered that deal. Like a rich auntie popping her clogs and naming you in the will, this was a once in a generation windfall to clear the debt.

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  8. Hope Dodson’s successor will take the knife to what is an over-bloated bureaucracy at Murrayfield. Will surely be necessary to restore financial rectitude as well as changing a culture where desk-bound jobs are seen as more important as work on the ground.

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    • Absolutely spot on. How they can have over 400 people working there to service two pro teams, a handful of internationals and only 12000 players is brutal. Get rid, get good people in that can work twice as well in half the time as a proper business. The talent that has been lost from the SRU is incredible due to politics and entrenched bad management.

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  9. Bye Bye Dodson.
    Bye Bye Super 6 …Dodson’s Folly

    Sweep out all the hangers ons aswell.
    What a great day this is .
    Now is a great opportunity for Scottish rugby as a whole to really get things right .
    Ps.
    I’m scared to think how much he’s getting with a Golden handshake .

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    • Do not forget the fortune he has amassed in his pension pot and other gratuities negotiated with himself for himself with the support of his long standing crony Dominic McKay. Who gets booted out of Celtic as he was useless and walks straight into the Chairmanship of European rugby. Elite rugby is rotten to the core.

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  10. I do wonder if this article will break the Offside Line’s record for comments 🤣

    As divisive as the man is/was…. Change long overdue and welcomed!

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  11. I hope he isnt expecting a bonus payment as seems to be the norm in the UK. Run an organisation badly then leave with a payout that can’t be jusrified

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  12. It is easy to be simplistic in assessment of his impact and legacy but like most things it is nuanced.
    On the plus side Scottish Rugby has been professionalised and many good steps have been taken to build a strong base but…

    He, it would appear., exploited a poorly written SRU issued contact to net a huge bonus a few year back based on revenue which made no provision for fact multi year pre sale of rights rolled into one year end account.
    He has over seen sn overstaffed, largely unimpressive, middle management bureaucracy in all divisions. Classic empire building head count etc…
    Desperately failed to marshal and plan a solid base (though corner being turned now) for player pathway and development
    Super six a folly (no such system in Ireland for example) better would have been a 3rd franchise in URC or totally up levelling of London Scottish.

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  13. There are some right queer comments on here about that man. All made more dismissible and laughable by the history of those accounts comments.

    This is, and shall be the greatest news that could come out of Murrayfield in a long time. He was an embarrassment to our Union with his obfuscation, misdirection, and outright arrogance.

    Quite clearly the final straw was the publishing of the latest accounts where even he, could not spin his way out of a deficit so large. lets hope his gardening leave starts now.

    Looks like a clear out is in progress at Murrayfield.

    Good riddance.

    What we now need are people at the helm who genuinely care about the Scottish game, its players, fans, and that understands the world in which we know have to operate.

    We are not a balance sheet to be played with. Its should be all about the Rugby. Everything else should be geared towards making us a rugby nation that earns its place in both hemispheres as a serious threat in every game.

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  14. Anyone willing to wager he ends up at world rugby with his old pal the Great White S….

    Who should be on the short list for the job?

  15. What wonderful news for Scottish Rugby. Let’s hope the game in Scotland can survive the terrible damage done to it by this appallingly inept man. I can only hope he will leave without taking yet more money out of the game but I suspect he will continue to be a leech on Scottish rugby finances for years to come.

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    • Yes! Scottish rugby was thriving before he came on board, destroyed everything which had been built and laid us so low /s

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  16. Wow! Did not see this announcement coming.

    There is much to be impressed with MDs tenure. This has to be considered against the negatives and there were some big ones.

    The biggest issue from me has been “the great man” approach. Everything that was positive – especially sponsorship deals – was down to MDs business prowess. But all the negative stuff was someone else’s fault.

    Enjoy your retirement. I’m sure the 2nd highest CEO salary in rugby will ensure it’s a comfortable one.

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  17. Well this is a shame. Huge salary, even bigger bonuses, coupled with fines and compensatory payments to good employees. Failing age grade and a performance department. No budget to even buy decent balls or equipment for academies. Ultimately No understanding of rugby in Scotland, no interest in our club game, only interested in the national and pro teams, no idea where the players in our pro teams are produced from.
    This departure is 10 years too late….

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  18. He commanded a disgusting wage and wider package for the size and performance of the organisation. Lets hope who ever gets appointed it not so money grabbing and is duly rewarded on performance both on the balance sheet and the structures put in place to to protect and prosper our game

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    • Colin you are spot on with your use of protect because grass roots rugby in Scotland is becoming an endangered species. I can name at least a dozen state rugby playing schools from my youth that have not had rugby in many years. The SRU have been fudging the playing numbers for years double counting youth and school even though the same players etc.

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  19. He survived because he improved things financially despite his other shortcomings he dropped the ball and is now gone, lets hope we get someone in who has strong business acumen and can continue to improve the finances whilw at least pretending to know that it is all about rugby at all levels and not just the elite level.

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  20. Damned with the faintest of praise. There have been some steps forward during his tenure but the article paints a worrying picture of the current situation and the culture he has engendered has been a blight on the game.

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  21. A very sad loss, I’m deeply shocked and saddened by this. Whoever replaces him will have a hard act to follow.

    He’s certainly left scottish rugby in a better place than when he came in, so thanks for your efforts, Mr Dodson.

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    • Agreed MisterC, devastating news for Scottish Rugby. Lets hope we can win Mr.Dodson the Grand Slam before he goes.

      Thank you for your service Mark. Scottish Rugby is in a far better place.

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      • Will MisterC (or should that be MisterD?) and AngryGala2 (or should that also be MisterD?) also leave now or will Dodson’s ludicrous PR department continue to function?

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      • Haha, here come the trolls, they’ve been hiding in MD’s underpants feeding off corporate lunch crumbs.

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      • Devastating? Even if you acknowledge what good work he may have done, his departure is hardly devastating. With the bedding in of a new governance structure as well as the launch of a new 10 year strategy, far from it being devastating it is quite clearly the optimum time for a change in leadership. Devastating?! Honestly?!

        As for winning him a GrandSlam, now you really are trolling. How about we win a GrandSlam in recognition of the massive investment made by clubs, volunteers and supporters right across the game, not the guy at the top who is handsomely rewarded for his efforts whatever happens.

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    • More MisterA than MisterC.
      It’s certainly a mystery how you could feel that way about the performance of a man who has gravely damaged not only grass roots and community rugby, but threatened the viability of the SRU as a whole.

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  22. Think we can all agree this is great news and hopefully the replacement will be someone we can all get behind. Im hoping someone with knowledge of the internal structure and experience can take over such as Stevie Gemmell.

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    • Wacky Kerr .
      That Gemmell comment is hilarious .
      Mind you it’s the only job he’s not had at Murrayfield so far ..
      He’s currently in a made up job as Director of performance ..( could mean anything )
      Well if you’re judged on performances

      He and the rest of the hangers on should do the right thing and also go .

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    • He’s not leaving until the summer. Plenty of time to fill Edinburghs talent pool, get Townsend a new contract after another failed campaign and go out in a blaze of glory.

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    • rather it hit him full in his fat smug face this guy has bled Scottish Rugby dry and shame on that great player John Jeffery for being beholden with the bright lights of power and for the support he gave this leech.

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