A PROPOSAL to restructure the governance of the Scottish Rugby Union was approved by an overwhelming majority at Murrayfield this [Monday] evening, with member clubs voting 109 to nine in favour of the single motion presented at a Special General Meeting.
The details of the motion, which was proposed by the Scottish Rugby Council based on the work of its Standing Committee on Governance [SCOG], have been outlined HERE.
It was a small turn-out in the room, with the majority of delegates for this first ever hybrid (in-person and by video call) general meeting choosing to take part remotely.
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There was a comedy interlude as Gary Strain – the Glasgow Hawks prop and a delegate for Strathclyde University, where he is director of rugby – was put on a loud speaker to ask a question, before explaining after an awkward pause that there had been some sort of mistake and that he had nothing to contribute.
The only other question came from past-President Ed Crozier (Cartha QP), who asked the timeframe for appointing the new chair of SRUL – the operating entity of the organisation – to which President Ian Barr replied: “That is a matter for SRUL, is the simple answer to that.”
The whole thing was over inside 15 minutes and there was a gentle ripple of applause at the end. The next step is for the Council and SCOG to produce the paperwork necessary to bring about the structures outlined in the motion, this will involve outlining in detail the necessary transition arrangements required. A second SGM will be held in mid-August to seek final approval.
“The change that we’re proposing is actually to have Scottish rugby working as one, have everybody working together for the same end, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities,” said Barr afterwards. “Enabling our executive team, led by Mark [Dodson], to have the full autonomy to run the business, and at the same time have from the clubs’ perspective that oversight and scrutiny, transparency … all the key values that you have in modern governance structures.
“So I think a new era of all working together for the same end, basically. We’re bringing the Dunlop model into the modern era and trying to make it fit for purpose.”
Meanwhile, Professor Lorne Crerar CBE, who became Independent Chair of SCOG at the tail-end of last year, explained his role in polishing up the work which had been carried out by the committee under his predecessor, Gavin McColl QC.
“The principle is that well governed organisations are well performing organisations,” he said.
“It was about putting in place a system that accommodated the owners [the member clubs] of Scottish Rugby and what they felt about how the game should be run and the oversight. From that position, I framed some proposal documents and then there was the consultation with Mark [Dodson], the SRUL Board members, the clubs and the fora. And from there, formed the proposals, considered them again and that’s where we are now.
“It was quite complicated because governance is, but the thing is to make it sensible and understandable so we have at the end of it a system that is clear, can be seen to be transparent and reports to the owners of Scottish Rugby, that’s the member clubs.
“At the end of the day, it’s not that complicated a structure,” he added. “The situation is that we now have this new company, a company limited by guarantee, that will be called Scottish Rugby Union. It will own all the assets of Scottish Rugby. It will be accountable to the members, the owners of Scottish Rugby. And it will have an oversight of SRUL, which runs the business of Scottish Rugby and will report to the members.”
Looking ahead to the second SGM in August, he explained: “Everything is already in place to be actioned by the lawyers. That’s already in train. It will be another SGM that will approve all the documental change, the winding down of the trust of 1911, all the assets will be transferred over and the new company will be created. A relationship agreement between the new company and SRUL will be finalised and then off we go.”
Meanwhile, Dodson insisted that he is entirely comfortable with the new structure. “I’ve said repeatedly on this subject previously that my job is to make whatever governance structure is created by SCOG work,” he said. “And I think this has got very clear swim lanes, it has clear responsibilities, it has very clear dialogue lines as well, and I think this will be a way we can all act as one.
“Everyone knows their roles and everyone performs to those roles, and we’re going to have a continuous dialogue which takes the business forward. I think what Lorne has brought to proceedings is that clarity, and I think it is a very exciting time.”
“This is very much SCOG business, and my role, and I have been very clear to the executive on this, we stand to the side one this.
“Today was a real step forward. That level of a majority in favour of taking change forward as got to be a good thing for the game. From my point of view, working with a governance structure always being revised in the background, or threatened, or argued about, is no good at all. What we’ve now got, I think, is the framework which will allow the game to develop in the professional world.”
“Dunlop [the report produced by a committee headed by Sheriff Bill Dunlop in 2005, which provided the basis of the current governance structure] was an incredibly good piece of work at the time. It now needed to update. I think we’ve now got a format that can serve us well for the future.”
“What our stakeholders are looking for is to have a voice in the game. And I think the structure which has been brought forward with the Club Rugby Board gives our stakeholders much more of a voice in the game that effects them, and sometimes when we’ve not been able to agree before, there has been game apportioned or stagnation has taken place, [whereas] now there will be much more of an involvement in creating their own future and we’ll be light touch in terms of making sure what we do agree on gets implements and move forward.”
I am always the pessimist in these situations…with good reason. If this works, as it is meant to on paper, then we have something that has not happened before. But that relies on ALL parties adhering to the spirit and word of the agreement.
I will reserve judgement until I see this in practice. Just look at Wales right now…utter carnage. I feel for them.
I think the majority of people only every wanted our union to flourish, produce great players, teams and a test sides that are fit for the modern game whilst remaining financially viable at grass roots to provide those players.
I hope it works…I really do.
Fine words, fine summary.
Huge praise to Ian Barr and SCOG for a massive effort in getting us to this position, an effort rewarded by overwhelming support from the members.
With a clear way ahead, time as you say to pull together for the good of Scottish Rugby.
Exciting times ahead.
What our stakeholders are looking for is to have a voice in the game. And I think the structure which has been brought forward with the Club Rugby Board gives our stakeholders much more of a voice in the game that effects them, and sometimes when we’ve not been able to agree before, there has been game apportioned or stagnation has taken place, [whereas] now there will be much more of an involvement in creating their own future and we’ll be light touch in terms of making sure what we do agree on gets implements and move forward.”
What a fascinating comment from Mark Dodson. I would tie it with his opening remarks about staying in your lane. It’s surprising that it’s taken this long for the penny to drop.
One of the really powerful outcomes from the SCOG process is the confirmation that it is the members of SRU that are the owners. That has been the fault line through all the skirmishing. In practice it was SRUL who considered themselves to be the Union and acted as such.
I look forward to a more collegiate environment where we can engage constructively on all matters that effect Scottish rugby. The days of being shouted and hectored from the top table are over.