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.
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.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 27)
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.