SEVERAL high-ranking figures from the SRU’s domestic rugby department – including Nick Rennie (head of club services) and Colin Thomson (head of schools and youth) – are in the process of agreeing severance packages with the governing body as a consequence of a restructuring programme which has been carried out by Sheila Begbie, the director of domestic rugby.
Staff were asked to re-apply for their positions within the department’s new structure, and Rennie was among those who were deemed surplus to requirement. Glen Tippett (schools and youth manager for Glasgow South), Graham Lindsay (schools and youth manager for Caledonia region) and Sarah Quick (womens and girls development manager) are also believed to be among the 10 (out of 16) staff members heading towards a Murrayfield exit.
Thomson, who has been involved in SRU development work since 1995 and was appointed Scottish Rugby’s first head of community rugby in 2005, chose not to re-apply for a position within the organisation.
Sheila calls the shots
Begbie joined the SRU in August 2014, taking on the newly created position of head of women’s rugby, after 16 years in the equivalent role at the Scottish Football Association. She became Director of Domestic Rugby at Murrayfield – overseeing the men’s as well as the women’s game – on an interim basis in May of last year. That turned into a permanent appointment last August. She has kept a low profile during the last year in terms of direct dealings with the clubs whilst conducting her internal strategic review of the department she oversees.
The timing of this change in management structure is curious given that it creates a significant degree of uncertainty at a point when the SRU are on the precipice of launching the biggest shake-up of the club game in modern times with their controversial, and as yet largely unexplained, Agenda 3 programme.
Agenda 3 was unveiled by SRU chief executive Mark Dodson last year and has been heralded as ‘a blueprint of sustainable clubs’ which will involve ‘transforming the structure of, and strategy for, club rugby in Scotland’. This will involve a new league set-up and a change in the way central funding is allocated to the clubs.
Concerns about the new league structure – and specifically the impact of the introduction of a semi-professional Super 6 league at the top of the club game – has caused considerable consternation amongst the second tier of clubs in the country in recent weeks, raising the very real prospect of one or more motions being tabled at August’s SRU AGM, which will essentially call for more clarity and discussion about what the future of the club game is going to look like.