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.
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.