Opinion: ‘There is something rotten at the heart of Scottish Rugby’

SRU Chairman Colin Grassie has presided over a tumultuous period which has left the governing body's reputation at an all-time low

Rather than hold Mark Dodson to account, SRU Chairman Colin Grassie has worked tirelessly to protect the Chief Executive. Imaga: Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Rather than hold Mark Dodson to account, SRU Chairman Colin Grassie has worked tirelessly to protect the Chief Executive. Imaga: Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

A NEWLY-PUBLISHED book, “Dark Towers” by David Enrich is a filleting of the giant investment institution Deutsche Bank.

Here is what the Sunday Times review had to say of the publication:

The Deutsche Bank of Enrich’s book is the kind of bank that should only exist in a television drama….it helped clients to commit tax fraud, illegally conceal debt and launder money; helped to spark the global financial crisis by becoming one of the most prolific peddlers of mortgage-backed securities it knew would fail; enabled clients to evade sanctions against Iran and Syria; conspired to fix key interest rates; lied to shareholders and regulators; and ignored and in some cases fired whistle-blowers, while rewarding the most reckless and high-earning employees.

The review goes on to tell us that Deutsche Bank became known as “Douche Bank”, but what does this have to do with Scottish Rugby you are probably asking? Well, it was from “Douche Bank” that the governing body plucked its current chairman Colin Grassie, who had been with the German conglomerate since 1995 and headed up the London branch for several years up until 2015. If you are pondering the wisdom of hiring Scottish Rugby’s figurehead from such an institution, you are not alone.

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For the avoidance of any doubt, there is no suggestion that Grassie was personally involved in any wrongdoing, simply the observation that several of those under him enjoyed a fast and loose relationship with the rules and nothing much appears to have changed. If you wonder why the chairman of Scottish Rugby has not sacked or censured the chief executive at Murrayfield, the above book may go some way towards explaining that ugly little conundrum.

There is something rotten at the heart of Scottish Rugby that almost makes you yearn for a return of the blundering old committee man whose worst crime was to scalp a few tickets when England came calling every other year.

Instead we have a chief executive who has persistently besmirched the name of Scottish Rugby. It started with the Keith Russell affair when the judge stated that his dismissal had been both “procedurally and substantively unfair”. Mark Dodson has yet to apologise to the Scottish fans for this display of hubris and nor has the Murrayfield boss bothered to explain the 14 other non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) for non-playing staff that he had signed off at goodness only knows what cost prior to Russell taking his principled stand.

We can only guess at the reputational damage Dodson has caused Scottish Rugby with that incident, and the potential sponsors who may have backed quietly out of the room. After losing the case, Dodson should have resigned. When he refused to go, Grassie should have handed him a large dram and a revolver. Instead the chairman had already extended his contract.

RWC ’19 should have been a celebration of all that was good about the game but Big Mouth strikes again. Instead of making use of insider relationships when it looked like Scotland’s crunch match against Japan might be cancelled, Dodson’s response was widely interpreted as a veiled threat of legal action, prompting a £70,000 fine from World Rugby and a forced apology. That, rather than any rugby, is Scotland’s World Cup legacy: another humiliation.

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These stories are never written in black and white. Dodson did well to squeeze a good chunk of money from BT’s coffers for rebranding Murrayfield, but his overbearing arrogance is his constant undoing.

It was Dodson, as well as the Welsh representative on the Six Nations Board, who in 2017 turned down RBS’s offer of £14 million to sponsor the Six Nations only to end up accepting just £6 million from Guinness the following year. No apology was forthcoming.

Performances on the park

Scotland exited the World Cup at the pool stages, they sit eighth in the World Rugby rankings and they have won two from eight of their Six Nations matches to date across the board (men, women and U20’s). We are locked in a danse macabre with Italy at the bottom of the Six Nations and the senior men’s squad is riven by a split between head coach Gregor Townsend and head playmaker Finn Russell.

As chief executive, Dodson should be the one to crack a few heads together, but he is hopelessly compromised by his history with Russell’s father, Keith, and can only watch, useless, from the side lines. A rupture that should have been mended in days threatens to divide Scottish rugby for years to come.

Dodson also jettisoned Vern Cotter far too early in favour of Townsend who, according to one reliable source, pretty much demanded the job.

Now, in the aftermath of a disastrous World Cup, Townsend claims he has learned a lot of lessons and will improve. But he was not handed the job to learn lessons and improve. If you demand a job coaching Scotland at international level then you had better hit the ground running. Initial results were encouraging but since then Townsend’s micro-managing style has alienated the players to such an extent that at least one has walked, post-World Cup his squad skipper Stuart McInally was left “never wanting to think about rugby ever again” and you wonder about Richie Gray’s motivation for sitting out the whole shebang?

It’s a mess and it’s a mess of Dodson’s making, because the obvious thing to do after that Twickenham quarter-final agony at the 2015 World Cup was to give Cotter another kick at the ball four years later while Townsend learned some much needed man-management skills.

Instead, Dodson caved to Townsend and now finds himself between a rock and a hard place, where Townsend’s spat with Russell makes it all but impossible for Dodson to fire the head coach without looking like he is caving to the fly-half. In an absurd twist, Townsend’s own inept interpersonal skills may actually contrive to keep him in situ when almost everyone is screaming for change and his Scotland side is stuck in third gear.

Dodson’s reward for presiding over this shambles was a bonus that took his earnings last year into the region of £900,000, which anyone with one iota of self awareness would refuse point blank as totally inappropriate given the size of the organisation. Who the hell agreed that sum and what the hell were they smoking when they did?

Accountability in action

There are only two entities that can effect some much-needed change at the top of Murrayfield and one of them, Grassie, shows no sign of recognising a problem exists, never mind fixing it.

This chairman had already extended Dodson’s contract before the judge had pronounced on the Keith Russell case, which is scarcely credible, or would be if you didn’t already have an inkling of the environment that produced Grassie. Incidentally, the single most important man in Scottish Rugby has not once in his three years as chairman gone before the press to answer these questions or any others. He trumpets the virtues of openness, honesty and transparency and then spends three years dodging the press.

The only other body that could bring Dodson to heel are the clubs, who have been passive to the point of being comatose, one compliant president replacing another, although no one wants a civil war. The behaviour of the current incumbent at last year’s SGM suggests that Dee Bradbury may be suffering Stockholm Syndrome.

Thankfully hubris, again, from the people at the top may well have woken a sleeping giant. The executive’s arrogant display at last year’s AGM and SGM gave clubs an inkling of the disdain in which they are held and furthermore, if implemented, the governance review by “independent” Bill Gammell would remove the club voice from the equation altogether.

That sobering fact has finally grabbed the clubs’ attention. Last night [Wednesday], the clubs from National Two and Three held a forum meeting where a vote of no confidence in Grassie was originally on their agenda before it was shelved at the last minute so that the focus of tonight’s joint Board and Council meeting was not distracted from dealing with Gammell’s governance review. If he didn’t know his standing in clubland before, perhaps Grassie does now.

Without any club oversight, as provided by Sheriff Bill Dunlop’s report of 2005, Murrayfield’s executives could become a self-perpetuating elite, parasites in all but name, sucking heartily at the teat of Scottish Rugby, especially when/if the CVC money is forthcoming.

In the meantime, Scottish rugby has to endure some dodgy Douche Bank practices. In a classic example of how Murrayfield bends the truth to suit itself, the Scottish Rugby Council (made up of the clubs) declined to endorse or condemn Gammell’s recommendations but agreed that they should go before the clubs for their verdict without comment.

Murrayfield put out a statement insisting that the Council endorsed in principle the Gemmell Report when the Council had simply agreed to put the matter before the clubs. This distortion of events would have been unthinkable by Murrayfield top brass even a decade ago; not so now.

Murrayfield focused on alcohol following the Finn Russell affair when the crux of the matter was his toxic relationship with Townsend. At the AGM, Murrayfield claimed to be debt free but a closer look at the books revealed that this was “true” only because several bills were outstanding.

Murrayfield is rotten to the core and, if the chairman is part of the problem, it is left to the clubs to cleanse the Augean stables … while they still can.

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About Iain Morrison 143 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.


  1. Murrayfield is rotten always has been just different freeloaders.
    Clubs should stop the rot including Gammell but too many parochial vested interest.
    You get what you deserve

  2. I’ve read once more the contribution from A Milne at 2.26pm on February 29th and I am sorry Mr. Milne however I feel there should be an additional A as there seems to be as much Rose-tinted fiction in the comment as in an A A Milne story.
    Mr. Milne makes out that Dodson is ‘the outstanding commercial figure on the board by far’. The Manchester Evening News and Guardian Media Group are not dare I say at the top of the pecking order when it comes to Media Companies. Rupert Murdoch’s Executives were not quaking in their shoes when the news broke that Dodson was looking for a career move.
    Checking the local advertising revenue from the likes of the Salford Gazette or an involvement in the loss making local Tv. Station Channel M, which incidentally ran for years at a loss despite Dodson stating in 2010 “the future is in local Tv.” it closed in 2016. So much for Dodson’s ‘Executive’ decision talent, in fact the local MP Andrew Gwynne had gone on record criticising ‘the amount of money wasted on Channel M’.
    The somewhat farcical comment that Dodson being the ‘outstanding Commercial’ Beast at the SRU tends to indicate an almost messianic following from Mr. Milne: I did not require a Doctor to tell me that I had bust my leg in 3 Tib-Fib-and Ankle anymore than I needed a Mechanic to tell me the clutch had gone on my car when I couldn’t get it into gear.
    Common sense is what is required and there is I admit little sign of it when you consider they sanctioned half a million quid of a bonus.
    Questions are being asked in this and many other articles and journals regarding Dodson and his ability and remunerations justifiably, right across the spectrum, although probably it isn’t headline news in the Salford Gazette Sports page.
    The claim/suggestion that it was Dodson that increased the revenue is in my opinion indicative that Mr. Milne sees and hears what he wants to hear and see. The revenue increased because the XV were winning, thanks I’m sure in no small way to Vern Cotter, that is what upped revenue, the Scottish XV winning or making a fist of it. Whilst I think about it, the comment that Dodson has had an outstanding part in dealing with CVC, where is the evidence for that? He is part of the Six Nations group. Furthermore there is considerable concern that the Six Nations will in some manner sell out to Pay Tv. and follow the path of Athletics and Cricket into a sort of oblivion.
    As for Milne’s penultimate paragraph about ‘contingency’ goodness only knows what that was about or its pertinence to the point in question that is what are we going to do with an SRU Board that appears to have all the credibility of the Vet in the Spec Savers Advert.
    Nurse, bring the Crash Trolley.

    • Professional rugby will be wholly owned by external businesses within 5 years, whether Sky or CVC or a combination of both and maybe ANOther.

  3. In relation to the article some comments seem to criticise the author of the piece by questioning ‘a source tells me’ hearsay evidence, well hearsay or not I think the following ‘facts’ speak for themselves.
    1. Nobody as far as I know in a similar position to Dodson earns as near as makes no difference a Million a Year. A pertinent question would be how on earth was a bonus scheme like that sanctioned?
    2. With regard to Non Disclosure Agreements, what on earth is there that could possibly be regarded as ‘confidential’ with regards to running the SRU? NDA’s are relevant in something like Formula 1 design or engineering whereby you have specific information that is confidential. An NDA is an instrument for the likes of the Dodson’s and Bercow’s of this world getting away with dubious treatment of the staff.
    3. Performance of the XV and 7’s squads 3 or 4 years ago were arguably better than at present, the previous world cup hampered primarily by a bad call from a Referee, forget whether the line out call was the correct one or not and the 7’s squad were holding their own and winning tournaments against the likes of Fiji who at the time were in their pomp at the time. And let’s be fair personally as soon as I saw the draw with Japan the holders of the WC I knew without doubt that would be a heck of a fixture, they are fit and will run at you all day. Cotter in my opinion was badly treated by the SRU they didn’t even offer him a thank you over the Tannoy at his final fixture, disgraceful in my opinion.
    4. Townsend and Russell, well a few beers are one thing but not turning up for training doesn’t hurt the Coach as such it effects your team mates, that is the fact that Russell fails on for me. If there are any other factors that involve the bad feeling from the SRU and his Dad and the unfair dismissal I don’t think that failing to show for training should come into it.
    5. Revenue, I seem to recall in the pre Cotter times there was some dismal support, I think it is fair to say that Cotter picked up the squad and perhaps his crime was bringing players like Barclay back into the fold and that didn’t please they who must be obeyed.
    No matter what there has to be a change to Dodson’s bonus if nothing else.

    • Re Russell and the failure to turn up, there are a other factors to take into consideration, not least that there has been an issue between Townsend and Russell for some time. This was made clear by Russell’s comments after the Twickenham match last year. Perhaps what tipped Russell over the edge is the creation of a leadership team in his absence, when he had been part of it previously and could reasonably expect to be involved before a major tournament kicks off. To exclude him may seem petty to outsiders, but it is singular act of bad faith by whoever was responsible and that is very likely Townsend. Whether it be a calculated act or just inconsiderate, it is insulting to anyone pivotal to the squad on and off the pitch and may well reflect a general wrong-headed approach to the role which is also reflected in a confused team on the pitch.

      Having seen Townsend described by former playing colleagues as the least organised person they knew, it could be Russell’s exclusion from the leadership group was simply thoughtless, but other senior members of the squad should have challenged him. I suspect Laidlaw might have done so.

      Neither thoughtlessness or calculated malice is healthy in a team environment, especially from the team’s overall leader and it is clearly more than “a few beers” or missing training that has to be addressed.

      It looks like it might be another weather-affected game on Sunday, which is not helpful, but Townsend must provide his team with a clear and efficient strategy to salvage anything from his last home game in this championship to justify staying in his role beyond the game in Cardiff. To me, he’s beyond redemption and must go. He’s destroying this team and its spirit and it needs someone new at the helm to rebuild on the summer tour. Dodson following him through the door marked Exit would be welcome.

  4. This article highlights the concerns of a very large and growing number of rugby fans in Scotland – the SRU ihas gained a bad smell in the past six months and it’s only getting stronger
    SO (and I mention just one concern)
    Mark Dodson – you have an immediate responsibility to ‘consider’ the position of the head coach as you have done with other former SRU employees ! You have a responsibility to deliver ‘on field success’ NOW –
    IF NOT – the conspiracy theories will grow – the toxicity will increase and irreparable damage will result

  5. There is a danger of throwing the baby out with the bath water here.
    Dodson has done a lot of good things
    The problem is that the SRU board are mostly rugby people rather than people with senior commercial backgrounds. Dee Bradbury is a case in point. She had a career in the police and is now retired.

    That makes Dodson the outstanding commercial figure on the board by far.

    That structure is unusual. Who has the weight to check Dodson (if that’s what you want) in that set up?

    Other unions have lower profile board members and nobody stands out the way Dodson does on ours.

    He isn’t a rugby person, he is a straightforward tough talking deal maker with a senior commercial management track record before his appointment.

    And that’s what we wanted when we took him on, because our game was in a bad place.

    When Dodson came onboard, the union was half the size it is today in revenue terms. It was mired in debt far greater than today whatever your view on accounting practice is. The Murrayfield pitch was a disgrace, we had no professional/ academy structure underpinning the pro teams and the national team was hopeless.
    We have more money now and Dodson should be recognised also for his role in the cvc capital deal which will pour millions into the game here.

    The issue over contingency in Japan also highlights the amateurism at the heart of rugby globally. It’s still a sport content to look after its own or its latest project oblivious to the floating sport fan, and its project in this case was what the All Blacks wanted and getting Japan to a QF.
    That is incredible rank amateurism that makes rugby look bad.
    How should you respond to it?

    If you wanted a check on Dodson you would have to put someone on the board with his track record.
    That will cost you.

    Take a look at what directors on premier league boards or the boards of other comparable sporting bodies outside of rugby get.

    It isn’t small beer.

  6. The only thing we fans can do is stop going to Murrayfield. I was incensed when we had to fight to get a donation for Doddie Weir cup game last year .

  7. Rugby has decided to copy the old banking model of poor results and huge rewards and building from the top down. Both the SRU and WRU have questionable business nous, as highlighted point 1 RBS offered a 6 nations deal which the SRU and WRU blocked, result, it’s costing us around 1 million a year. Point 2, heineken cup, WRU backed the french and English power grab and the result the lead sponsorship has halved. Watch the execs feeding frenzy when the cvc money comes in. Lets hope some of that money makes it’s way to clubs to develop age grade rugby, women’s rugby, buses to matches and to provide some sort of reward to all the volunteers who help out up and down the country every week. We’ll see.

  8. Interesting read, plenty of points to ponder,
    Pick up on a couple or more. Tickets for Georgia game we’re double the price for a season pass holder than buying individually. Prices for the Scotland tops are now peaking with unjustified hikes every season for a top you have to buy on a larger size as Macron V Canterbury is a mis match. Who renewed the Macron deal? 2 people support the views of the board, have a look at likes on posts. Vern Cotter should never have been removed from the Scotland job. Not renewing his contract was a massive mistake. I am not anti Townsend, but his time is up. That’s enough for going on with

  9. Sceptic 9?

    You offer an interesting defence of all things related to the SRU and it’s governance. Unlike Iain Morrison, you hide behind an anonymous identity. How about in the interests of transparency, you actually reveal who you are? You discredit all those asking for a proper examination of the governance of rugby in our nation, yet provide no evidence. Reveal yourself and let us all judge the Foundation and basis for you viewpoint. Mr Morrisson has put his professional credentials on the line to write this article. So, what is your basis for challenging it? Anonymity is the cloak of the insincere.
    Let’s have a proper open debate on the actions and repercussions of recent SRU proposals and actions. Clubs need to hear the unfiltered and “unmanaged” truth. When will Grassie actually speak to his stakeholders?

  10. Sceptic 9?

    You offer an interesting defence of all things related to the SRU and it’s governance. Unlike Iain Morrison, you hide behind an anonymous identity. How about in the interests of transparency, you actually reveal who you are? You discredit all those asking for a proper examination of the governance of rugby in our nation, yet provide no evidence. Reveal yourself and let us all judge the Foundation and basis for you viewpoint. Mr Morrisson has put his professional credentials on the line to write this article. So, what is your basis for challenging it? Anonymity is the cloak of the insincere.
    Let’s have a proper open debate on the actions and repercussions of recent SRU proposals and actions. Clubs need to hear the unfiltered and “unmanaged” truth. When will Grassie actually speak to his stakeholders?

  11. Think of the CEOs we had before, like Gordon Mackie, who put in proper business processes but otherwise acted like an insolvency practitioner, with no vision for the long term. He too was accused of bullying, tyrannical behaviour.
    And sure, 900k is a lot to head a business which in the real world is an SME, but sport is not the real world. Look at what the CEO of celtic fc makes – comparable business, turnover and profile.
    SRU turnover isn’t just up a chunk either, it has doubled.
    Maybe the problem is that apart from Dodson few of the board members have a senior commercial track record in other businesses or pro sport. Most of them are first and foremost rugby people.
    You can say that’s good, but that’s not necessarily the way snr management in other professional sport operates.
    Someone with a commercial record to rival Dodson’s might be a more effective check.
    Of course he needs a check. He has qualities without a doubt, and should be recognised for those, but few companies run by an all powerful figure end up in a good place.

    As for Townsend, I cannot fathom the tombola albeit this has calmed down, and I’m not convinced about an all out defensive midfield considering the attacking talent we have, but to give credit the players have not looked demotivated and the defense and intensity has gone up a gear.
    They are clearly trying.
    They do not look like players who do not respect the coach.
    Although maybe someone like Iain Morrison with an inside track and better access to the players knows better.

    • Irish equivalent of Dodson on £175k having delivered grand slam,victories over NZ,European Cups n got four pro sides all of which have delivered trophies….. seriously there are people still defending Dodson..??? Haven’t even mentioned the desperate state that club rugby is in…if there isn’t a total clear out of entire senior echelons of sru in next couple of years we will be labouring with Russia Georgia n Romania. No doubt some of the idiots who think rugby begins n ends with Glasgow n Edinburgh won’t get that but people who are involved in club rugby especially youth rugby can see we are at absolute crisis point.

    • Btw increasing turnover isn’t same as increasing profit. Thanks to his terrible decisions Dodson lost money on TV revenue n managed to reduce our annual profits. Only takes a cursory glance at the actual figures before one can see Dodson n his pals are at it. It’s a subject been covered by offside line perfectly well.

    • There are things which could be better, but the usual solution advocated by fans is a clear out and then you risk throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  12. If you think £900K is a lot of dosh someone should ask what % of the CVC money Dodson is going to pocket? (another £1M over and above his salary)

  13. @sceptic9

    There is a very easy response. Provide the counter to the points that Morrison makes.

    If X is untrue/false then state why that’s so.

    Even better offer your services to OSL to provide your take on how things are?
    Oh and do it with your real name rather than hide

    • the onus is on Morrison to prove his case, he hasn’t. He has smeared individuals in the hope that mud sticks. And made stuff up.
      Lets take one case, Richie Gray. Hates the toxic SRU so much according to Morrison that he missed the RWC. That willbe the same guy who has stated in int he still wants to play for Scotland, and has signed for an SRU owned and run team for next season.

    • Oh my. That’s just brilliant.

      Do come back with more of that sort of response. Really supporting your contentions

    • sigh. Morrison is the one making allegations, the way it woks is no-one needs to prove innocence. He needs to back them up. He made one on Gray for example, its provable BS but don’t let that fact get in the way of your own little conspiracy theory.

      he has smeared Grassie because of his previous employer. Its McCarthyite. Lets see Morrison make a specific accusation and see what happens. He won’t of course. Wonder why

  14. Is this an opinion piece or the mad ravings of someone with an almighty grudge? Any reasonable points in this piece are undone by insinuation, innuendo, wild speculation and guilt by association. If you want to make a case that something is rotten, you must do so dispassionately and do so based on facts. This is simply a takedown piece and undermines the integrity of the site as a whole. And, in the interests of full disclosure, I’m not a fan of Dodson or the SRU by any means, but they’ve undoubtedly improved Scottish rugby in the last decade. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to change and be held accountable, but accountability and improvement aren’t going to come as a result of a bottom of the barrel grievance piece.

  15. I’m just a fan, so I only have dealings with the public-facing staff like the ticket office. You can tell a rotten organisation from their attitude to customer care. Suffice it to say that after many years of attending Murrayfield, being a season pass holder for the last six or so, I won’t be back until Dodson has gone.

    • funny according to many posts in several other places the ticket office staff are never less than helpful.

    • Just to give a bit of balance Andrew Peters without challenging your experience – I reported the Viagogo website which is selling French tickets for £350+by email. I got a call from Kieran who spent 10 minutes explaining what the SRU ticket office – through a new unit of which he’s in charge – are doing to combat this. they’re the first union to put this in hand. I was impressed.

  16. Clubs diSRUpted and miSRUled,
    The strategy’s not classy,
    Clubs divided, conquered – fooled,
    By Dodson M. and Grassie.

    One sad example – ‘Super’ 6,
    The SRU’s new puppets,
    Duped by Mr Dodson’s tricks,
    Six once-proud Clubs, now Muppets.

    £312,500 each Club will pay,
    Towards ‘their’ players’ wages,
    But who decides who’ll really play?
    Dodson’s head coach. Outrageous.

    To find such cash each Club must strive,
    Hold raffles, auctions, dinners,
    While Dodson and his top pals thrive –
    The ONLY wealthy winners.

    Near two million in five years,
    Will kill these six Clubs dead,
    Bankruptcy will end in tears,
    Bring matters to a head.

    Grass(ie)roots rugby mostly gone,
    Dodson will have vanished,
    Forcing through some other con,
    (Unless from boardrooms banished.)

    • The fact there’s so many super 6 Edinburgh clubs means the top brass are relatively confident they’ll be able to find the cash. For the rest as you say they’ll need to push the tombola and the old meat tray raffle.

  17. As a former player, minis coach, short-changed Murrayfield ticket payer and father of a pro player, all this comes as no surprise. Iain has just – with a bit of dry wit – summarised what is a known toxic mix.

    The challenge is, as he says, that no one – least the clubs – seem to have the power to force change. Schools rugby engagement (I know it from my local high school in North Berwick) is farcical, as is support for our minis (no coaching curriculum at all for us coaches) and the main club.

    Meanwhile the dodgy HR practices, lack of player welfare of a level adopted by the likes of Saracens or Exeter, playing and reputational humiliation at RWC, and the Scottish Football like increase of star players opting out of national involvement (it isn’t just Russell) mean the challenge of journalists like David Barnes, Mark Palmer and Iain Morrison are vital to “talk truth to power” or at least publicly (try and) hold them to account.

    So – keep the pressure guys; it certainly isn’t coming from within the SRU!

    • I have to say the comment re coaching curriculum is totally removed from my own experience. The Level 1 and 2 coaching courses were both outstandingly well-presented and bled down to my local club, as well as financing for that – with then free reign access to The Hive system which is a continual evolving coaching reference point with material, information, resource and knowledge share. And my local club isn’t in anyway seen as a privileged club etc. I am actually quite surprised to read what is being said here really, it doesn’t mirror up to what I have seen re the guys working in local areas to develop coaching at all.

  18. Must say I agree with this detailed article one thing I’am always looking for is to see how much Dodson and CO if he gets a wage of £900.000 how much do they all claim for in expences just a thought.

    • he doesn’t get a wage of £900k. Helps to deal in facts, not twisted spin from Morrison. Just a thought

  19. What Iain Morrison did not mention in his piece was the SRUs disgraceful decision to move Glasgow Warriors 3rd game v Edinburgh to Murrayfield last season. This was due to be played at Scotstoun as per the previous season and indeed the current one. Thus ripping off season ticket holders of the Warriors. As per usual Glasgow’s huge support being used as a cash cow to generate more money for Dodson and co. It was only through fan pressure that this abominable decision was reversed. This just shows what Dodson thinks of loyal fans of whatever rugby team – e.g. not a lot – its all ‘show me the money’ He reminds me of Harry Enfield’s ‘Loads ah Money’ character from years ago

    • it was played at Scotstoun last season

      It will be played at Murrayfield this season

      Is it really that difficult to check before making a comment based on nothing?

    • Sceptic 9
      You have such forthright views on Scottish Rugby. Why do you hide behind the cowards cloak of an anonymous identity. Conspiracy theory dictates you must be Dominic McKay or one of his staff. You are very active in challenging all issues raised by Iain Morrison and reiterated in various forms by genuine (identifiable) fans of Scottish Rugby. Why are you not willing to identify yourself and openly stand up for the viewpoint and opinions you express? Whether flawed, or not, Mr Morrison had the guts to do so. Why do you not do the same? Anonymous sniping is, in my mind, a lot less credible than journalistic challenge based on years of playing within and reporting Scottish Rugby. Time to reveal yourself or shut up!

    • After reading his comments on this thread I don’t think anyone takes sceptic 9 very seriously other than presumably his masters at the SRU who pay him.

  20. What an incendiary and provocative article. Never took to Morrison much before but good on him for this expose. I have always been aware of the constant political infighting that goes on in the SRU, but even if only half this article is true, what a state of affairs. It goes a long way to explaining the Finn Russell fiasco. Finn will be more aware than most of his father’s disgraceful treatment so would already have had degree of scepticism about the Murrayfield establishment, of which Townsend is clearly not just a favoured son, but an integral part of it. This arrogance and naked greed probably gos a long way to explaining why there is so little regard for Scottish rugby among the other Home Nations. I propose Fred Godwin for the next SRU Chairman

  21. Very thought provoking article! We are in my humble opinion close to the edge of failure at the top of Scottish Rugby. We should all remember the story of the emperor and no clothes here, it’s very applicable here. Everyone knows Toony hasn’t got it, everyone knows Vern shouldn’t have been disposed of. Everyone knows and is embarrassed by the Keith Russell affair and it’s now very apparent ramifications. Everyone knows we are being lied to from the Junta at the top of the game.

    What we don’t seem to know yet is what to do about it, or when to do it…..how about starting by immediately sacking the Head Coach and getting our highly paid Director of Rugby to do the job I’m fairly certain he was brought in to do?

    Secondly, the Dodson omnishambles and his “reward” package. It will be remembered as a dark period in the governance and development of the Scottish game. Unfortunately change will only come when we vote with our feet and the funds start to dry up again. Put simply the snouts will leave the trough then.

    Finally…. and I appreciate I’ve been ranting. Does anyone really think the “success” of Edinburgh can be put at the SRU door???? Really…. the apparent decline of Glasgow can. I’m happy to make a case for that.

    Rant over…

    • I would like to make it clear that these comments were NOT made by me nor do they reflect my views on Scottish Rugby or the SRU. However, I do share Iain Morrison’s concerns on the governance of our sport and the lack of transparency in the affairs of Mark Dodson and his cabal.
      Jim Rae, President,
      Aberdeen Grammar Rugby

  22. I think facts can be spun in any direction and a well written article can easily sway the mind of those not within the inner workings of Scottish Rugby. However, this article shines a light, a great big giant “I am Batman” search light on Dodson’s financial package. I get that the SRU are currently successful on paper. What I don’t get is ~£900k?? Even if he did deserve it (and I’m not saying he does), should he morally accept it? Quite rediculous sums of money that would be far better utilised in young community rugby projects and supporting those who’s lives have been negatively altered through rugby via established and well documented charities. Dodson… #DoOne!

    • The accounts do not really support the “success” view. Debenture holder will be looking to get their loans repaid soon. Are there any reserves to do this?

  23. Without an understanding of where things are going wrong, you can never improve. Because we only see a Trump like figure surrounded by over paid yes men then the only way to invoke any type of improvement is by calling it out. This type of article is long overdue. And you definitely won’t get it from The Scotsman, G Herald or BBC.

    Are things in a bad way at the top end of the SRU? You only have to see the NDAs with payoffs to know all is not well. Then the Russell Snr case. Totally damning of the organisation. But just speak with the lower paid at Murrayfield and they hate Dodson and his lackeys with a vengeance. These yes men will shaft anyone, anytime. They just do not have anything in common with people with rugby in their veins.

    To run an organisation badly you surround yourself people who will ‘do as they are telt’. Overpay them by 50% so they can’t get a similar job and pay packet elsewhere. They are trapped. They will then definitely do exactly as they are told. Robert Maxwell used this with his many companies. Phoning his chief executives or finance directors at 6.30am at home to discuss numbers. Can imagine Dodson up the same old trick.

    SRU is not only dodgy but seriously toxic. The stories will come out eventually, they always do, but Dodson will have been long gone by then, with a more than generous payoff in salary, pension, compensation for no longer being a top turd plus an inconvenience bung.

  24. And the SRU is debt free ! Do Dodson and Grassie believe this ? Does £33m of Debentures not count as debt ? Given there may be significant inflow of funds from sale of 6 Nation and Pro 14 interest should there not be a start made to meet the redemption of Debentures albeit not due for some years , and only then at SRU discretion . Why was this issue not highlighted in the governance review ? The Debenture holders financed the redevelopment of Murrayfield when rugby was amateur and run by a Secretary and Committee – not an army of highly paid executives and a board seemingly with little ability to control the executives .
    With substantial inflows of money the Committee/Board should realise that the changes in the past 25 years or so since the Debentures were issued be recognised and consider reviewing the terms to allow the interest of those who readily helped Scottish rugby years ago when normal finance was either not available or unaffordable be considered .
    A minor matter of interest would be to know how many Board /Committee/Executives hold Debentures !

    • Ian I think you might be interested to go through the accounts on how debenture income and costs are amortised over the life of the debenture. Provision is made, standard accounting practice

    • Your understanding of accounting matters needs to be improved ! Debentures are debts due by the SRU therefore do not earn interest , equally they are monies lent to the SRU interest free . The amortisation is the cost of the issue of the debentures being written off over the life of the debenture . Sorry to disappoint you but your comments through lack of understanding are unhelpful .

  25. Iain Morrison. When did he last say anything positive about Scottish Rugby? Answers can be typed double spaced on the back of a postage stamp.
    There are criticisms to be made but smear and innuendo are not criticisms and this piece is full of those. I have no idea what Grassie is like but I’d bet he has a better laywer than you, and you are sailing close to the wind.

    Townsend did not demand the Scotland job.
    Richie Gray didn’t go to the RWC for reasons nothing to do with Townsend or Dodson.
    Murrayfield did not concentrate on alcohol after the Russell incident, Russell went big on it as the reason for his walk out (and perhaps you could look up the interview where he talks about his very positive relationship with Townsend).

    All this stuff is easily checked, I have some of them from published articles, others from “reliable sources”.

    From another reliable source I understand that you are a very bitter agenda driven ex player who was not as good as he thought he was and harbours a permanent grudge that you didn’t get more caps.

    • Ad hominem attacks are rarely good. Even less so when the poster choices to be anonymous.

      Results are bad, there are serious player number issues, bad corporate behaviour has resulted in fines to the SRU. But the Exec are handsomely rewarded. For what exactly?

      But yeah we should all just applaud politely from the galleries.

    • One does get fed up with these “reliable sources” – you mean the guy next to you at the bar??
      We all know that the Finn affair was all about Townsend and his father’s treatment – alcohol was just the SRU cover up.

    • Are you Dodson’s maw ? Not a mention of Dodson and co.’s corporate greed I notice. The SRU need a clear out or to put it in military terms ‘a pull through with a christmas tree’.

    • I fully support sceptic 9’s opinion with regards to the suggestion that Townsend demanded the Scotland job. Where Mr Morrison is your evidence? Is it not more credible that after GT’s success at Glasgow (his man management style, and the player accolades which the press were then happy to quote, have all been forgotten here) the SRU were scared he would be attracted – as was Finn Russell you’ll all remember ? – by European (or Saracens!) money, so offered him the job. Morrison also chooses, as do a number of those commending his article, to forget the superb wins which the team under Townsend achieved. Why? Perhaps because it’s inconvenient and does not fit his shotgun approach.

      I agree with the general tenor with regards to Keith Russell’s sacking, too frequent use of NDA’s, gross salaries, and the inexplicable indolence of the Council to hold the Board to account after the redacted Lesley Thomson report which no-one admits to seeing!. Oh and their response to The Gammell report. All reprehensible.

      But his comments on Townsend?

      So, with respect, please might he provide the evidence regarding hisversion of GT’s appointment, acknowledge his results and justify his contention that he has developed a poor man management style which has lost the changing room. Something, responsibly, that The Offside Line’s editor might have asked for before publishing.

      Finally, GT received endorsements from Clive Woodward and Richard Cockerill as I’m sure Iain Morrison knows. Worth something surely that they are prepared to put their heads above the parapet?

    • no Dom Ward, we should not applaud form the gallery. We should criticise based on facts not smears.
      And there are lots of facts to criticise. Lots, smears and innuendo are not facts. Morrison knows that and is playing you like a Trump tweet. Nothing Morrison writes can be taken seriously, check back as many years as you like and you’ll see the bitterness against the SRU – and professional rugby. This is more of the same

    • @ Thomas James Simpson
      yes I too get fed up with reliable sources, which is why I parodied Morrison’s use of them. But I do have a source on a couple of Morrison’s claims. And he is wrong

    • Yes, I can’t recall Iain Morrison having this published in the Scotland in Sunday, for some reason. Why? However, I’m sure there’s no smoke without fire. With regard to what’s on the pitch, the way the team is playing (gallant losers, improving each game etc. that we’ve heard over and over for many years) Townsend must take the blame and should surely have resigned after Japan.

    • @Dom Ward

      “Ad hominem attacks are rarely good.”

      Excellent use of irony. At least, I hope it’s irony. Or are you only ok with ad hominem attacks when they’re in an article you like…

    • Nah, you are wrong – the Gray thing was SRU related I mean he would never come back to Scotland and pla…..oh….ehmmm well this is awkward.

  26. I agree entirely on Ian’s take on the upper echelons of the SRU. I dont agree that the clubs have turned a blind eye, just that the douche chairman and the disgusting bullying trough filling behaviour from senior executives is hard to stop.
    I think Iain Milne misses the point with Bill Gammel’s report. It does not matter how well intentioned, the report basically strips all power away from the grass roots and in to the hands of a board that is a secretive clique
    To hell with lies and subterfuge from Dodson, Grassie, McKay and co. These guys are dragging what is left of our great game directly in to their own pension funds.

  27. Have both Scottish clubs ever been stronger at the same time in the professional era as now? In recent years has Murrayfield ever been so full as it is now? If Townsend was holding up his end of the bargain, I think we’d be taking a different view on the SRU. Steve Tandy is working wonders, but our head coach isn’t doing a good enough job. I appreciate that Dodson hired Townsend, but ultimately Townsend is the weak link. His CV indicated he was likely the right guy to bring forward a talented, flamboyant group of players, so tough on Dodson to blame him for hiring him (great to have a scottish coach and all).

    • Both Scottish clubs? Unfortunately you are amongst a large percentage of Scots who think of Glasgow and Edinburgh as all that matters in Scottish club rugby. What is scary is that it seems Dodson has the same opinion. In total including 200 of Scotlands best club players, the new super six semi-professional clubs have significantly less of the SRU’s money spent on all of them put together than Dodson’s own personal wages. Of those 200 players (half of them in Edinburgh alone) many of them spend match day without a match to play in.
      From youth development, through regional club rugby and right up to the premiership, the SRU’s investment in the long term future of Scottish rugby is woeful. About half of the Scotland 6 Nations squad are either there through a Scottish grandparent or just residency. Unless the SRU start supporting youth and club rugby through the length and breadth of Scotland, going forward, whoever are the Scottish international teams coaches, they are going to have fewer and fewer Scottish born players coming through from Scottish clubs to select from.

    • Angus, it is lost on most that without Glasgow and Edinburgh thriving, the Scotland team is weaker. And if the Scotland team is weaker, cash into the game (gate money, merchandise, TV and sponsorships) is less (it has never been higher). Less money from the national set up and its less for everyone. Less exposure fewer high profile role models to get kids interested etc etc etc/

      Aye been rules, back to the blazers who nearly bankrupted the Union

    • Angus Elder.
      Interesting comments but like Mr Morrison’s article, short on evidence. Could you give us the benefit of your inside track which says Tandy’s ‘working wonders’ (don’t disagree he’s doing a job as an important part of a team) but that Townsend isn’t holding up his end of the bargain and is a weak link. What does he need to do in your view? And please don’t say ‘Bring back Finn’ as that’s a separate issue.

    • JN I’m basing my comments on Steve Tandy being the defence coach of a team that has shipped two tries in three games (compare that to last year’s effort). Meanwhile, Townsend’s attack is not firing (scoring tries). My comments would parallel with my opinion of France and Sean Edwards, but maybe it’s chance that both are new to their roles and there have been vast improvements in their team’s defensive performances. Not sure how else we can judge these things. Truth be told I wish there was something Townsend could do, but sadly I now don’t think he’s well suited to the role.

  28. What a great piece of reading, typical arrogance at the top compounded by giving himself a huge wage increase, what a joke

  29. Yawn, yawn, yawn, how long am I going to read the same old regurgitated!
    For some reason people, especially some of the media, think I’m pro SRU, just because I don’t skate them off all the time.
    The decision for Mark Dodson to speak out at the WC was a tough call, I’ve still not seen our press take the WC organisers to task for the lack of any meaningful contingency plans.
    I know Bill Gammell and had the pleasure of speaking to him about his paper. This was done because of his passion for Scottish Rugby and NOTHING to do with any relationship he supposedly has with Mark Dodson. There are good bits and not so good bits in his paper, let’s move forward and not just kick it into touch.
    Yes they got the Russell affair badly wrong but I think they’ve got a few things right.
    From what I have heard Gregor had no choice over Finn, as a rugby supporter it’s not what I want but I respect the coach.
    There is a lot of good things happening, Edinburgh top of their league and still in Europe. Glasgow on a good position to qualify in their Pro 14 league, could have qualified for quarters in Europe had proper sanctions been applied.
    U20’s , win against Italy, narrow defeat against England and a creditable performance against Ireland who are sweeping all before them.
    Over the years I’ve heard people comment and criticise the number of “ non Scottish” players we field. The pack against England was I believe made up of players who had come through the system, didn’t read anything about it.
    Are we all just going to keep this negativity going until we get rid of Mark, Gregor, Dominic, the Board , everyone else who we don’t like. Is that the solution? I don’t think so but maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Bring back the good old days, actually they weren’t that good, careful for what you want. Bear.

    • Deutsche Bank also did some good things.

      Hitler had a good army.

      Time to part ways. Thanks. Bye. New management, please. Before the CVC money is wasted. Now’s the time for the clubs to strike if they want to see any of it.


    • Iain,
      Ireland at their weakest in years Scotland should have beaten them.
      If beating Italy is the height of our ambition then Scottish rugby is finished.
      The Dodson affair by that I mean his total mismanagement as exposed by the very need or desire to use ndas and his total lack of common sense at rwc2019 to me demands not a salary increase but a sacking.
      The whole SRU setup needs performance related benefits and beating Italy wouldn’t even be part of the equation.

    • I think what people want is a governing body that supports its clubs. I believe that happened in the “good old days”.

  30. Given how much money cvc made out of formula 1 you can’t help but wonder if profit margins and possible financial incentives directed towards some of those making the decisions may see scottish rugby go the way if formula 1 and be pay per view which will destroy grassroots rugby.

    • Rugby Union is certainly not a business as the thousands of amateur clubs across the world will testify.

  31. A good article when discussing the facts, he then makes statements about Townsend and Gray which are either opinion or fact – which? Or is it execution by Facebook rumour?

    • to James
      Amateur rugby may not be a business, but we are not talking about that, are we? We are talking about Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh, and now the Super 6.
      Please recall how Rugby League came into being. The RFU could not countenance rugby-playing miners being compensated for lost wages.
      Now the amateurs are on the wrong end of things. Dodson and his crew are in it for the money. CVC are in it for the money. Sky, and all sports broadcasters are in it for the money. Please do not imagine that the amateur game is of any interest to any of them unless they can find a way to screw money out of it.
      It may be time for Scottish clubs to form an amateur association unconnected to the professional game in any way, including abandoning the SRU structure.

  32. Whilst there may be concerns with exec mgmt and governance, Murrayfield is not rotten to the core. It’s evident that there is Scottish Rugby staff working extremely hard for the benefit of the community game.

  33. I went to an international recently and felt I was being ripped off every which way you turned at Murrayfield .
    Cost a fortune to take my family .
    Then it came out that Dodson was being paid this astronomical bonus I thought who’s the fool here .

    Gone are the days a normal rugby fan could have a day out to remember .i felt I was being fleeced left right and centre to line Dodsons and Co’s pockets .
    I will not be back till there’s a clear out of the high and mighty money grabbers at the top .
    And I’m not the only person thinking this SRU.

    • You’ve hit it on the nail Walter. It used to be a great day out
      A total rip off match day experience nowadays at Dodsons Moneyfield

    • Very true are international games really worth paying £65 plus for a ticket and much of this is put back into the amateur clubs to help them have better facilities to increase playingmembers

    • Its 70 posts v the 68000 odd folks who attend to be fair… the costs at Murrayfield are about 5 pounds a pint, which is the same as most bars in the middle of town, 10 pounds give or take for a Pizza which is about on par with most restaurants and tickets can be bought for 40 pounds a pop, which part of the day did you think was a rip off? The majority of things that can be bought are entirely optional rather than anyone forcing people to buy them.

    • To compound it due to Townsend’s ego and insecurity and Dodson’s revenge we aren’t allowed to watch the best Scotland player of this generation. The All Black game will sell out but I suspect could be more empty seats than full ones for Japan and Argentina unless something changes drastically.

    • @craig would you pay £5 a pint or £10 pound for a pizza in pub or a restaurant that has just cost you £65 to enter? Also would you class a catering van as a ‘restaurant’??? Apples and pears!!!

    • @Robster, I fail to see how the two things are the same…

      If I was going into a restaurant I would be making a conscious decision to buy food – when I attend a sports game (Scotland game) I can plan my entire day around not having to spend money on food when at the game – no one is forcing that on me – the pint cost is about what I expect it to be, it falls in line with most major events, it falls in line with most pubs in town – what should a pint cost 2/3 pounds? It IS actually a game of Rugby ultimately rather than a place to simply go and buy cheap bevvy

  34. I remember the meeting in ’96 to debate whether Scottish rugby should go down the club-or-district route. Obviously the district route suited the establishment and their proponent stated “if we go for clubs it will be like rugby league where one club, Wigan, wins everything.” The following day Wigan lost in the Challenge Cup for the first time in something like nine years. I took that as an omen…but clubs shave continued to be shafted ever since.

  35. Can’t disagree with anything said in this article…I’ve been saying something similar for some time. The SRU board, committees and the governance structure needs to be torn asunder and replaced with people who have both, commercial savvy, and a love and understanding of the Scottish game, and its fans.

    Costs of going to games, cost of buying national team kit and sustenance at matches have become ridiculous. The example of the RBS sponsorship of the six nations being refused to take £8 million less, no more than 12 months later, amplifies the arrogance and stupidity at the top of our union. And it is OUR union.

    There is an invisible financial hole in the union that needs to be spoken about. No amount of smart arsed accounting practices will solve that. Representing money on the books that has not even been earned yet, to show profitability is sailing very close to the wind.

    All because CVC are hanging around with £120 million to spend, and they want to lift their skirts to show a bit of leg….only for CVC to find its a wooden leg.

    • Scotland v Georgia tickets could be bought for £15.00 and it was hardly a crowd to shout about, to say the cost of going to games is ridiculous is a bit farfetched. It is the same with kit costs, they are in line with just about every other sport and as much to do with the company who make the kit.

    • @Craig – When you have a family it starts to mount up and rugby is a family game. You have referenced a game against on non-six nations side. Tickets prices are not that for six nations games or autumn tests either. You’ve used an extreme…so I will too. Try £125 for one for the France game if you’re not getting them through a club. Ans thats a nosebleed seat.

      In terms of kit…it is changed every year, and for every tournament they have special editions. RWC, Autumn tests etc. Also if you are a club supporter, of which I am, then that goes on top too. £95.00 for a home or away Scotland top or £70 if you don’t want the “test” top. Do you think thats reasonable?

      The price of the kit is determined between the union and the manufacturer when they strike they’re sponsorship deal.

    • It’s not an extreme though, it was a recent test where a family could go and watch the National team at a perfectly reasonable cost, thus people aren’t really being costed out of going to watch Scotland, that’s not pricing people out … there are numerous examples of this in recent years. In reference to the 6 Nations games, match tickets to them cost little different to that for a concert or show at the Hydro – next season season pass offers tickets with an average cost of 40 pounds a game, that’s a perfectly reasonable price to charge for a ticket in all honesty, expecting much cheaper seems wishful thinking rather than a likely reality when looking at comparable markets

  36. “Morrison likes no one” should be the headline. What a destructive article. Where is the constructive way forward. Is it coming in the next instalment? I hold my breath.

    • Well said Iain. I think that you have covered most of the points that the more committed Scotland supporters feel are important.

    • Your comment and its tone would be more pertinent were you to put your name to it rather than hide behind initials.

  37. Excellent article Iain.

    As one who worked in the banking industry pre and post crash what you say about it is correct and one of the reasons I escaped. For us to take on one of those tainted by their goings on just seems that the lunatics are running the asylum.

    We have known all the failings of the current Junta for a few years now and it is about time for the clubs to say enough is enough and remind them they work for us not the other way round.

  38. Well that is a pretty excoriating piece Iain. Agree with the general thrust.

    Would take issue with your club commentary. Several clubs have tried to hold the President, Board and Executive to account and are usually brought down by procedural shenanigans or failure to answer perfectly legitimate questions.

    There is unhappiness with the President and Council as they haven’t stood up to the Exec as they should. That doesn’t mean we want to see them ejected in favour of the Ecec running the whole show.

    The falling thing is we have a Chair and Board who have stood by and allowed all this to happen. Just changing some of the people on the Board or the Chair doesn’t alter that.

    Grassie is very good at apologising at the age and promising never again. And then we find ourselves with another drama. He’s good at those

  39. Powerful stuff. Such board behaviour in the corporate world is often accompanied by “aggressive” accounting followed by financial difficulties further down the line. Time will tell although cvc money might cover.

  40. I heard a rumour that Dodson, Townsend and our favourite DOR Scott Johnson have the same agent. Any way of confirming this?


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