Mark Dodson denies need for external inquiry into death of Siobhan Cattigan

Scottish Rugby chief executive insists he has confidence in Scotland head coach Bryan Easson in wake of Sunday Times allegations

SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson. image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

MARK Dodson has insisted that an independent external inquiry into the events leading up to the death of Scotland international Siobhan Cattigan would be counter-productive. Speaking after Scottish Rugby’s annual general meeting, the chief executive also pledged his confidence in Bryan Easson, the Scotland head coach whose alleged behaviour has been severely criticised by Neil and Morven Cattigan, Siobhan’s parents. 

Interviewed in the Sunday Times two weeks ago, the Cattigans blamed the governing body for the death of their daughter late last year at the age of 26. They allege that she did not got proper treatment for brain injuries, which brought about a massive change in her personality akin to dementia – and in the end led her to “the point where she could no longer live with the pain in her head and Siobhan succumbed to an irrational thought and impulsive action”.  

The Cattigans have now begun legal action against Scottish Rugby, which Dodson said meant he was limited in what he could state about the case. But he insisted he disagreed with at least parts of their version of events, and, while stating that those events were being examined within Murrayfield, said that those events did not constitute an internal inquiry.


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Asked explicitly if an outside inquiry was the best way to establish the facts, given the gap between the Cattigans’ version of events and Scottish Rugby’s, Dodson said: “No, because at the end of the day they will have the same issues we have, patient confidentiality and GMC [General Medical Council] guidelines.

“There are a number of people looking at a number of things at the moment,” he added when asked if any inquiry was going on within Murrayfield. “It is not a review. It will try and establish the facts. That is what we are trying to do. Facts and timeline. 

“This may end up in court proceedings and this may be the most appropriate place for this to end up. 

 “We are trying to establish the facts. There is one part of the story that has been out there. What we are trying to establish is the whole story. Until we establish the whole story, the timeline and facts, the facts will come out in due course.”

One of Cattigan’s injuries which caused most concern was sustained in an international against Wales in April 2021. After taking an accidental knee to her head in a tackle, Siobhan was treated for bleeding and given a head-injury assessment off the pitch. According to Neil, through the ear piece of the person treating her “She heard the coach shout repeatedly ‘Get her f***ing back on the pitch’.”

Scottish Rugby’s denial of that allegation was published in the Sunday Times along with the article. Dodson stood by that stance yesterday, and said he saw no reason why Easson – due to take his team to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next month – should be suspended pending an investigation.

“No, he’ll lead the team in New Zealand,” Dodson continued. “I have confidence in Bryan Easson as a coach. As far as any allegations are made against Bryan, we will look into those and establish facts as time goes past.”

Dodson was accompanied at his post-meeting media interview by John Jeffrey, the chairman of Scottish Rugby’s board. The former Scotland international echoed the chief executive in rejecting the need for an external inquiry.

“It is a very simple thing to say ‘Let’s go do an external review’, but you have to remember we have our people who need to be protected as well,” Jeffrey said. 

“To suddenly go down the way of an external review you are talking two years. You are getting other people who are affected, who are hanging on the line for two years, which we are not doing. We are comfortable, I am very comfortable, with the actions of our staff and our people.”

At the meeting itself, Jeffrey also addressed the issue, saying: “The account, as relayed by her parents Neil and Morven, was heartbreaking, whether you are a parent or simply someone connected to rugby. Many people across Scottish Rugby continue to be deeply affected. 

“Scottish Rugby takes everyone’s welfare as a priority and our medical team, who have led on concussion and brain health, and management teams are leaders in the world game, of which we are rightfully proud. 

“Having said that, we were extremely disturbed to read the allegations two weeks ago in the Sunday Times. I hope that through time and a thorough examination of the facts a more accurate and complete picture will emerge.”

SRU President Iain Barr stood down at the end of the meeting on completion of his two-year term in office, and handed over to new president Colin Rigby. Keith Wallace of Haddington beat Hazel Swankie of Dunfermline by 85 votes to 49 in an election for vice-president, meaning he should succeed Rigby in the top job in 2024.

A motion to change the structure of the men’s leagues was voted through by 101 votes to 13 after the meeting adopted an amendment proposed by Orkney. Starting in the 2023-24 season, the set-up will now be a Premiership and four National Leagues, each of ten teams.  In the season about to start there will be a Premiership of of ten teams and three National Leagues of 12.

Because the SRU’s accounts were not ready, the agm will be reconvened sometime next month. In addition to dealing with those accounts, that agm part two may also consider the final recommendations of the Standing Committee On Governance. The alternative would be to constitute a second special general meeting, the first having discussed governance in June.


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About Stuart Bathgate 1155 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.

14 Comments

  1. Just a thought, anyone commenting here should be willing to commit their full name, most do but some don’t, in my opinion if you’re willing to comment, you should also be willing to be properly indentified, no hiding!

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  2. I seldom comment on such forums, but I read this with clenched teeth. There is an undeniable stink about the way in which this has been handled. Reference is continually (and quite rightly) made to the establishing of proper facts, but prima facie this appears to be nothing short of a disaster for the SRU. And the ignorance of Dodson’s response is quite bewildering: a tutorial on how not to address the media regarding such a sensitive and emotional issue. I suspect the Court will take an incredibly dim view of this.

    We can add this to the litany of toe-curling scandals the SRU has faced in recent times. Appalled.

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  3. Ein Stein: who says the case is about “financial compensation”? Siobhan’s family has lost a bright, kind, intelligent, socially-aware daughter. Scotland has lost a gifted athlete with a caring and supportive outlook on life. “Financial compensation” is the last purpose in mind. Nothing can replace Siobhan’s life. But sweeping things under the carpet and hiding behind closed doors and the GMC is no way to go. Siobhan Cattigan was one of “our people”, too. Who speaks for her?

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  4. Aspects of this clearly tragic “case”, plus the co-ordinated PR headlines and generally emotive, sensationalist commentary surrounding it, could well result in the whole thing rebounding upon the Cattigan family in their quest for financial compensation.

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    • It is a helpful transcript of the interviews. Given this piece and others are articles rather than verbatim narrative is perhaps the explanation for the difference?

      One thing does strike me though. Facts are now being established. That’s 9 months after the tragic event that’s triggered all this furore. For an organisation concerned about possible legal action, that seems rather odd timing. One would expect those to have been established a long time ago.

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      • I think what it means is the SRU are establishing facts in relation to the claims made by the Cattigan family in their interview and presumably in the pre-action letter. They’ve made some specific accusations and the SRU couldn’t establish facts in relation to these before they have been put to them.

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    • I was just going to write that. His emotional words brought his job and his passion for what he does into focus. He has been a leader in his field for player safely and head injuries in the world of rugby. I trust him implicitly 🐻

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    • Key omission, can’t understand why his professional and emotive contribution was missed out!
      Dr James Robson is one of the finest medics involved in our game, a leader in player safely and head injuries. I trust him implicitly to speak the truth.

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    • Thanks for the link, as you say it would have been beneficial if there had been a bit more meat on the bones of the article, however even though Dodson and Jeffrey are between a brick and a hard place their response justifying their position could have been better.
      To be honest a ‘Witch hunt’ for an independent enquiry when it is obvious that this will with due process go to Court is in reality academic.
      No doubt because Dodson and his persona during his governance of the SRU leaves much to be desired the fact is there is no point in battering down a door that will in due course be open.

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  5. If there were a worse way to deal with this subject I’m not sure what it could be because the response from Dodson and Jeffrey, from what I have read above would seem to be clumsy, inept even.
    In particular Jeffrey’s comment “we have our people who need to be protected as well” gives an impression that they need protection in some manner or other, not a particularly well thought out response.
    Dodson suggested that he thought that this would end up in Court proceedings, well that would have been a sufficient reason for a rebuttal to an ‘independent’ enquiry as any judicial review would obviously be independent and external: but then he goes on to mention GMC confidentiality guidelines as if to justify his response to the suggestion.
    Nobody can accuse me of being an apologist for Dodson, however first and foremost the SRU need to show that they are looking into this matter seriously and with honesty and integrity, and respond in a fashion that doesn’t appear to be ‘kicking the can down the road’ using General Medical Councils guidelines.

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    • I think one of the issues here is that medical competencies including any possible medical negligence sits within a formal and ongoing GMC inquiry. They will be investigating whether the assessment and care received fell below certain professional standards benchmarked by peers/medical experts.ie should something different have happened and if it had, to what extent and with what certainty would the outcome be different. This will almost certainly end up in the courts and the SRU and their medical team will have been advised to not comment on specifics or accept liability on matters yet to be established by the GMC enquiry.

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      • Agreed, I was attempting to point out that from what I had read in the article they Dodson and Jeffrey should have been able to find a better way of expressing the SRU position. A quick glance at the link from Ed may offer more clarity.

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