SCOTTISH RUGBY chief executive Mark Dodson has defended the decision not to publish the business’ accounts ahead of this year’s AGM (part one), on the basis that the meeting has been split in two in order to cope with the social distancing requirements made by the Scottish Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the Scottish Rugby Union bye laws require that the financial statements should be laid before the AGM “within four calendar months after the financial year ends but in any event no later than 31st August in the calendar year”, Dodson argued that this has not been possible because preparing the required paperwork has been much more complicated this year than usual due to the huge hit to the business caused by the virus.
Part one of the AGM will happen by video link next Saturday to take care of the essential business of ratifying Ian Barr as the new President and electing either Colin Rigby or Keith Wallace to take his place as Vice-President.
Part two will take place when club delegates can meet in the same room at a future date which is yet to be decided, and will take care of the two motions which have been brought by clubs to ensure better connectivity between the game’s ultimate stakeholders [the clubs] and management [the Board and Council]. This is also when the accounts will be reviewed.
“The accounts have been so severely affected by Covid-19 that the reporting and auditing of those accounts is going to take much more time than normal,” said Dodson. “So, to give the most complete picture possible, we couldn’t hit the deadline before August 6th. Consequently, what we’re going to do is put those [accounts] out well before the second part of the AGM to give people time to understand.
“There’s payment issues, in terms of when you get paid what you are due, but also things like the PRO14 payments – that money was received in one financial year but not actually activated until the second financial year – so there are things that are extraordinary this year which we wouldn’t normally be dealing with.”
Dodson and his executive team have faced some heavy criticism during the last two years for a lack of transparency and accountability, with the handling of last year’s accounts a case in point. The claim that Scottish Rugby had achieved a “debt free position” was called into doubt, and it wasn’t until the statutory accounts were lodged at Companies House in mid-January that we found out the Chief Executive had been paid £933,000 for the year including bonuses. But Dodson insisted that there is no intention in this instance to keep stakeholders unnecessarily in the dark.
“It [pushing back publication of the accounts] is a decision not taken by any one individual,” he said. “Both the Board and Council have agreed that it is right and proper. There are no by-law infringements as far as I understand it, this is simply the best solution to the situation we face.
“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get it [the second part of the AGM] done in the autumn. I don’t think there’s any desire from us to have the AGM going further back. If we can have it in October, potentially, before we start the Nations Cup, then I think we’ll be looking to do that.
“It’s about finding a balance between essential business and business which needs more clarity and more thought.”
Dodson also confirmed that sitting President Dee Bradbury, who is recuperating after suffering a cardiac arrest in May, is highly unlikely to host the meeting. “I think it’s more likely that Ian Barr will be the chair,” he said. “We’re still a week away, but given Dee’s recent illness, I think Ian’s prepared to step in.”
While Dodson categorised Scottish Rugby as a ‘recruitment free zone’ whilst dealing with the fall-out from the Covid pandemic, he did reiterate his determination to secure contract extensions for Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and Edinburgh head coach Richard Cockerill, both of whom are out of contract next summer.
“That’s one of the things we’ll try and push on with,” he said. “Our list of priorities changes often at the moment given the circumstances, but I’d say it’s in the top 10 priorities that we’ve got.
“The reason being that, any new players who wants to join us over the next year or two will want to know who they’re playing for. We can’t have the World Cup in 2023 without getting to a point in time where Gregor is or is not the head coach. The same for Richard.
“They’re both happy to talk to me about it, which is a good sign. They understand what they want to achieve and they’re telling me what they want from me to be able to do the best job they can.”