SRU annual report confirms delay in final accounts

But thrust of document is positive as leading figures celebrate recovery from pandemic

SRU President Ian Barr host tomorrow night's SGM. image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.u
SRU President Ian Barr believes the post-pandemic outlook is bright. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTTISH Rugby has published its annual report for 2021-22, but, as was intimated in a communication to clubs last month, has not included finalised accounts in the document. The complexities of some of the governing body’s financial arrangements have been cited as the reason for the delay, with those complexities including a change of accountants and the arrival of a new financial director at Murrayfield. 

Instead of finalised figures, the report contains what are called summary unaudited financial statements”, which note a turnover of around £58million. Full audited accounts are expected later in the year and will be presented to a second part of the annual general meeting. The first part of the agm will take place a week on Saturday and will deal with customary annual matters such as the accession of new office-bearers.

While uncertainty over the precise state of its finances remains, Scottish Rugby appears bullish about its fortunes and asserts that its core business “has weathered Covid extremely well”. Three of the four Autumn Tests and both of the home Six Nations games were sold out, reflecting a desire to watch live rugby again following the pandemic period in which games were played behind closed doors.

According to the report, financial activity has returned “close to pre-pandemic levels”. Investment in the Six Nations Championship and the URC by private equity firm CVC has also helped the balance sheet.

A total of £20million worth of funding from the Scottish Government – a grant of £15m and the rest as a loan – was received in the financial year to 31 May 2021. £6.5m has been “earmarked to help community clubs”, with the rest helping Murrayfield maintain its structure and keep people in work.

On the pitch, the most notable success last season was the qualification by Scotland Women for this year’s Rugby World Cup. That contrasts, however, with a whitewash both for the women’s team and the under-20s in their respective Six Nations. Scotland Men won two of their five fixtures in the Championship.

A report on the national sevens sides mentions qualification for the Commonwealth Games and notes the return of the men’s team to the HSBC World Series. Since the end of the period in question, of course, it has been announced that Scotland will have to join England and Wales in competing under a Team GB banner in that series as well as at the Olympic Games. 

In his report as he comes towards the end of his term in office, SRU President Ian Barr highlights the recovery of the club game after the pandemic period. “It is in club land where my final year as president gives most joy, as swathes returned to their local communities to welcome back the sport we love,” he writes. “Whether it be in a playing capacity, coaching, or simply putting in selfless time around their local communities, thousands of people have contributed, ensuring the outlook is as positive and exciting as ever before.”

In his statement, Chairman John Jeffrey also emphasises the post-pandemic return to something akin to normally, and says “one of the biggest fears associated with the pandemic – namely that we would haemorrhage playing numbers across the board – has proved unfounded”. He also pays tribute to three of his fellow former internationals who died over the past year. “The deaths of Sandy Carmichael, Tom Smith and Siobhan Cattigan hurt us all and how we cherish the rugby memories they created,” he writes.

Chief executive Mark Dodson strikes a generally optimistic note in his report, but also warns of financial challenges ahead. He writes: “The cost-of-living crisis and rising public utility bills mean that we have to be ever more innovative in finding new revenue streams, particularly at a time when BT Murrayfield Stadium itself – with the East Stand having been built in 1983 and other stands having come on stream in 1994 – requires considerable maintenance and care. 

“We are facing a period of reconstruction to modernise our great stadium. Happily, ticket sales remain strong – and all involved in the sport in Scotland are grateful for that – but we can’t take that for granted and we remain committed to ensuring all fans get a quality experience.”

On a less bullish note, however, the report admits that the SRU’s investment in Old Glory, the Major League Rugby team based in Washington DC, has yet to bear fruit. But while stating that it has “written back” its investment, it insists that the future of the sport in the US may well still be bright.

“Scottish Rugby invested $1m in Old Glory over the course of two prior financial years,” it states. “While expectations of future growth potential remain significant, due to the longer trajectory to profitability and continuing cash requirements at this point, the Group has taken a cautious approach and has therefore written back the full carrying value of the investment in the financial year to 31 May 2022.

“This in no way reflects the Group’s expectations about the future of Old Glory, which continues to develop, but is instead a reflection of prudent financial management, the circumstances prevailing at the moment and rules on accounting treatment.” 

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About Stuart Bathgate 1183 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

20 Comments

  1. SRU playing it their way! Bad practise……
    2 days notice for 4pm on a weekday.
    ———————————————
    Dear all
    Ahead of this Saturday’s AGM, Scottish Rugby’s Chief Financial Officer, Hilary Spence will be holding a 30 minute information session on Thursday 11 August at 4pm. Hilary will be available to take any questions and/or queries the membership may have on Scottish Rugby’s summary financial statements, which were published alongside the annual report last week.
    If you wish to attend the Meeting, please find a link below:

  2. Now had a chance to read the Review.

    Costs
    International & Pro +17% over 2020/21
    Domestic & performance +22%
    Commercial & Operations +33%
    Club support +86%

    And overall increase of 25% resulting in a £5.5M deficit

    “Investment” in Old Glory of $1M written off.

    £2.24M of Scottish Govt grant spent on Murrayfield.

    And on that topic perhaps Mr Dodson can have a searching conversation with the Execs who let our “great stadium” fall into a state where it requires “considerable maintenance and care”? In unrelated news Scottish Rugby announced a debt free position in 2019.

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    • So Old Glory is a money pit, I did ask some time back whether the ‘French Connection’ was still up and running, did you notice anything about that please Dom.

  3. credit where credit is due – in a football mad country it amazes me that SRU revenues significantly exceed those of the SFA. Just wish the Glasgow, Scotland and U20s results matched the revenue results.

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    • Hard comparison to make when we’re guaranteed to be in Europe’s top competition every year for rugby, and stuck with playing lesser teams in a struggle to qualify for it in football.

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      • British football’s equivalent of the 5/6 Nations Championship was the Home Internationals. This came to an end during the Northern Irish ‘troubles’ when the FA decided not to take part any more as other home nations refused to travel to Northern Ireland. The SFA then followed the FA’s decision. I am sure this championship was a good revenue-earning exercise for the home nations just as is the 6 nations.

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    • Interesting that everyone defends the SFA with far more soccer players, fans competitions etc Euros, World cup, every minute a new international football competition (I’ve lost track) yet are much less willing to give credit to the SRU. If we stopped in-fighting and started working together we’d do so much better..

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    • Especially good when gifting a brand new stadium to Edinburgh. Lots of hints also that Murryfield will be getting spruced up. Meanwhile over at the end of the pier you either have to stand in the rain or in a decrepit gym hall at Scotstoun to eat your overpriced pie and drink your £5 warm Guinness.

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    • The difference between football and rugby internationals is interesting. The vast majority, if not all, of the attendees at Hampden actively support clubs and attend their matches. Sadly that is not true of Murrayfield where many attendees see it as a social event and many others are corporate guests. Both groups are happy with the inflated ticket prices. If the SFA charged £60-100 for tickets then Hampden would be empty

  4. No excuse not to have the finalised accounts published. Mark Dodson has to go, he is destroying Scottish Rugby from within and is only interested in one thing. Bonuses!

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  5. Mr Jeffrey’s comment regarding the tragic death of Siobhan Cattigan seem more than ironic given that SRU spokespeople appear to have done their best to stifle comment or any effort by her team-mates to commemorate and mourn her passing.

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  6. …and exactly why would the president’s face be plastered all over this?
    A “I’m shitting it!” mug-shot of Messrs Dodson, Howat and Jeffries would be more relevant.

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  7. Sadly it is all becoming a bit of a logistical problem when the annual accounts are not published.
    This is not simply good enough for an organisation which runs our game.

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    • Michael, I do find it strange as well but I’m no financial expert. However there does appear to be reasonably optimistic views expressed which o don’t think would come out of there was anything disastrous looming. 😊

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      • To quote the article: ‘complexities of some of the governing body’s financial arrangements have been cited as the reason for the delay including a change of accountants and the arrival of a new financial director at Murrayfield’.
        Now in my previous ‘calling’ the first question I would ask myself was ‘why: why can’t they [for want of a better description] offer up the evidence of their position’? When I received a response citing ‘complexities’ I also saw the potential for obfuscation.
        Is the change of accountants a factor for or against, is there a change because of an inability to find a ‘position’ from the previous incumbent who perhaps doesn’t have the same interpretation as those offering up the figures?
        Like you I am not an ‘expert’ on financial matters, however I will ‘Cop a plea’ to being inquisitive, if I couldn’t get an answer to what in reality was a simple question and received a response similar to the above I was obliged to ask questions, even difficult ones would you believe.
        I am however admiring of your continued support for all things SRU but to reprise your words: ‘time will tell’ and let’s hope it is a positive outcome.

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    • Michael – change is said to be a good thing (we are given to understand that previous auditors PwC – co-incidentally, once the employers of former SRU FD Graham Ireland – had run their course at Murrayfield) so perhaps some new financial brooms clearing up issues here and there might be no bad thing? Then, we must note that the SRU has hired in a few new financial bods to keep the Murrayfield books!

      Maybe PwC were proving increasingly difficult, less malleable, digging their heels in – as we saw during the crippling delays in signing off the SRU accounts as a “going concern” a couple of years ago…. shortly before the Scottish Government rode to the rescue with their eye-watering, unjustified and hard-to-believe £20 million package from taxpayers’ funds, boosted by CVC Capital Partners 6N & Celtic Rugby investment and a little-mentioned £5 million advance bung from World Rugby. All at a time when the SRU was so close to the financial buffers of insolvency that the increasingly concerned bank was playing hard-ball on grovelling requests to increase day-to-day borrowing facilities. Not a great time for SRU bean-counters, Directors, Board Members and imprudent executives!

      Not the first time that publication of SRU audited accounts has been deferred – first I remember was around the confused period at the time of the Foot & Mouth outbreak that caused postponement of at least the Ireland 6N fixture from one FY to the next. (Oh how I recall they leapt at the oppportunity to bury some losses in the confusion!).

      Nothing new, then. However, that the delays to which you refer have arisen yet again following the YE 2020 accounts burach suggests seriously weak or incompetent financial management.

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