Scotland face disciplinary action over response to match cancellation threat

Scottish Rugby Union Chief Executive Mark Dodson said he had taken legal advice over World Rugby's refusal to consider postponing the match

Mark Dodson
Mark Dodson gave a press briefing at the Yokohama Sheraton Bay Hotel on Friday. Image: © Craig Watson -
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WORLD RUGBY has stated it will convene a hearing of its independent disputes committee to look into comments made by Scotland Rugby Union (SRU) chief executive Mark Dodson in response to the threat of the national team’s final pool match being cancelled due to the impact of Typhoon Hagibis.

“Under our tournament rules, we are very careful that people behave appropriately, and as a result of that we’ve referred to and independent disputes committee the behaviour and comments of the Scottish Rugby Union,” said World Cup tournament director Alan Gilpin. “On that basis it’s probably inappropriate for us to comment any further.”

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It has been widely reported that Dodson threatened to sue World Rugby, although it is not clear when he said this publicly. He did say that he had taken legal advice, but that is a very different thing to threatening legal action.

He spoke at a press conference in Yokohama on Friday in a clear attempt to harness public support for Scotland’s plight, and to cajole World Rugby into taking a more flexible view towards moving the game if Typhoon Hagibis rendered the International Stadium Yokohama unplayable on Sunday night.

During the press briefing, Dodson was asked if he would consider taking legal action.

He replied:

“I think our view is that we have to reflect on that matter at that time. This is a glorious, world-class sporting occasion. We don’t want to be the people that taint that. But we also don’t want to be the collateral damage of this. This is important to us as a nation, and I think the rugby following public around the globe believe the same way. And I think we’re being, if you like, driven down a tramline around scheduling flexibility that doesn’t need to be there. And that’s why we took the legal route. It was just to say we’ve had a different opinion, two different opinions, one from the QC, that challenges that rigidity over scheduling.”

Earlier in the day, he had appeared on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4. Asked what Scottish Rugby planned to do about the prospect of a cancellation, he said:

“World Rugby is pointing us back to the participation agreement. We’ve had legal opinion – from a leading QC – that challenges World Rugby’s interpretation.”

Asked if it was too late to change anything, he replied:

“We don’t know that – we have to challenge it. But we should be talking about this from a rugby perspective, this is about the game and the rugby supporters across the world are absolutely astounded at this rigidity from World Rugby. The common sense approach to this is to play the game 24 hours later on perfect safety where we can make sure that the pool stages are completed, and the sporting integrity of the tournament remains intact.”

Asked if the game being cancelled would be the end of the matter, he replied:

“At this stage it is too early to say. My point is that World Rugby will be listening to what is happening around the world – I think opinion on social media is rising all the time about the injustice of this. I feel for our Italian friends as well, they had no participation in any of the decisions and they are on their way home already, and my view is that we’re not going to let Scotland be the collateral damage for a decision that was taken in haste.”

On Thursday [the day before Dodson’s press briefings], The Daily Telegraph ran an article claiming that:  “At a series of lengthy and bad-tempered meetings, which lasted for most of Thursday and ended late into the evening, Scottish Rugby’s chief executive Mark Dodson – who was described by one insider as being “in a state of apoplexy” – and chief operating officer Dominic McKay were fighting to ensure that their final pool game goes ahead.”

The article then claimed: “In a development that seems sure to cloud the rest of the tournament and have ramifications way into the future, insiders claim that the match between the All Blacks and Italy could have been postponed until Monday, but that the All Blacks were not willing to consider a turnaround of just five days between their final pool game and their quarter-final, which is due to be played on Saturday 19th October.”

The article concluded with a quote from an unnamed Scottish Rugby spokesman:

“We’re willing to do whatever it takes to get this game [between Scotland and Japan] on. There are 10,000 Scotland supporters here to see their team play, and for the integrity of the sport and this tournament, we’ve got to find a way to deliver on our undertaking to stage this game.

“World Rugby said three or four months ago that they had contingency plans in place to address any problems or challenges that might occur, and we took them at their word. We now expect them to deploy those contingency plans and ensure this match goes ahead. The fans, players and everyone who loves rugby will demand nothing less. The whole situation is almost beyond belief.”

The match went ahead in the end, with Japan winning 28-21 to secure their passage to the quarter-finals of the World Cup, while Gregor Townsend’s team head home. It is a disappointing conclusion to the tournament for Scotland but there was a measure of relief that the outcome was decided on the field of play.

It seems very strange that World Rugby have chosen to prolong the fall-out from this whole unsavoury affair rather than draw a line under it and focus purely instead on making sure that the remainder of this World Cup is remembered for the right reasons.

Gregor Townsend plans to lead Scotland into next Six Nations and beyond

About David Barnes 3995 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. No matter what you think of Dodson for other things, he was correct here.

    WR are an absolute joke. People signed up based on there being contingency plans. But, with 3 games cancelled I didn’t see any contingency applied! Closed door games in another location wouldn’t have been a problem but it suited ABs/Eng/Fra to not mess around and have a week break. For example England were down in Kuyshu trsining in great weather when they could have played a game in any of the stadiums down there.

    3 QF teams had rest weeks. Italy put out without playing and legends missed their chance to play. Meanwhile Canada/Namibia was huge for those players and nations and it didn’t get played. Had almost a week notice so avoidable in all cases.

    Shambles from WR. I’m happy SRU pushed a bit.

    • If people signed up “based on there being contingency plans” then they were foolish. Like them or not the regulations were quite clear before the competition started.

      Dodson has only made himself look even more ridiculous here.

  2. Unfortunately Mr. Dodson can say what he likes but he only represents a small and elite minority in Scottish Rugby.

    More to the point, the game was played Scotland lost, let’s not forget or hideaway from that one.

    Dodo only sees the game from a money making perspective doesn’t he?

  3. Perhaps World Rugby could do everyone a favour and ban Dodson from rugby until he can behave like a decent human being. That way we shouldn’t ever see him again.

  4. Mark Dodson’s bluff & bluster media campaign was the last card he had to play. All the unions knew that if a game was cancelled it could not be moved in time or place. That is a fact. NZ were correct and in line with that if in fact they did refuse to reschedule. It is the SRU that were out of line trying to force a change of agreed policy. This talk of a legal opinion is just laughable but at no point was legal action threatened. WR are trying to put the SRU down now and that should be resisted to the utmost.

  5. David, for the first time in my life I’m on the side of the SRU! The union should respond by accusing the RWC of bringing the game into disrepute because that is what they are doing.

  6. Dom
    Great comment.
    You are spot on, we have seen this behaviour before.
    I don’t like the rules but we have to assume that as member of the World Rugby Audit and Risk committee, Mr Dodson did sign off on the risk mitigation and contingency planning of typhoons in the typhoon season.
    So either he got this wrong at the time, or he has had a memory failure.
    Irrespective of this Scottish Rugby is again being brought into disrepute.
    We have been there before too.

    • Thanks Keith

      I wonder if the QC looked over the whole WR Tournament agreements that all participants signed? I’m pretty sure a similar clause to the MOS one will be there somewhere. Alongside the usual “WR are the final arbiters”.

      Check out our championship rules for examples.

  7. What an interesting development. Agree it’s surprising that it’s emerged before the end of the tournament but probably demonstrates how hacked off WR are with the SRU.

    It is instructive to look at how the SRU would deal with a similar issue in Scotland. Say Anytown RFC were upset at the possible postponement of a match and complained loudly to the media how unfair all this was and that they had legal opinion that the SRU could arrive at a different decision.

    We can look at the MOS agreement ALL clubs must sign if they want funding from the SRU. Clause 4.1.3. not act, or fail to act, in any way which may, in the reasonable opinion of Scottish Rugby, be prejudicial to the goodwill, image or reputation of Scottish Rugby, the Union or the sport of rugby union;

    Not much wriggle room there.

    And the reality is that Mr Dodson has shown time and again that he is prone to these types of outbursts. Some might call it bullying and intimidation. I couldn’t possibly comment.

    • Wheres the outburst? Seems like a rather calm and reasonable statement from him, and its hard to disagree with any of it. I know hes persona non grata amongst the readership here, but what were we supposed to do, put our tails between our leg and trudge off home without any challenge? Id be dissapointed if our CEO hadnt stood up for us in the face of a potentially unjust decision.

    • I suppose it’s all about perception Chloe. Having seen Mr Dodson in action at various meetings my impression of his style is that it’s overly aggressive and antagonistic.

      Why the need to go to the media in the first place? Perhaps deal with theses things in the background.

      At the very least recognise that it was the worst typhoon in Japan for over 60 years. Anyone who thinks a rugby match no matter how significant, merits special treatment needs help.

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