Scottish Rugby suffer major setback in search for new CEO

Preferred candidate has a last minute change of heart

SRU Chairman John McGuigan will carry on picking up the slack until a new CEO is finally appointed. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
SRU Chairman John McGuigan will carry on picking up the slack until a new CEO is finally appointed. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

SCOTTISH RUGBY have been sent back to square one in their search for a new CEO, with the recruit they planned to unveil this week switching to an alternative employment opportunity at the 11th hour.  

The plan is to now restart the recruitment process from scratch. Scottish Rugby Limited Board Chairman John McGuigan will continue to pick up the slack – as he has done since the departure of former CEO Mark Dodson earlier this year – until a permanent appointment is made. This is a far from ideal holding position at a time when the organisation faces significant challenges on both the sporting and commercial fronts, but Scottish Rugby do not want to compromise for the sake of a quick solution.

This setback comes at a time when Scottish Rugby is looking to turnaround a £10.5m deficit in the last financial year, while Murrayfield Stadium is in desperate need of significant investment, pro and international rugby is still not delivering the milk and honey we were promised when private equity bought into the sport, the male player pathway is in the midst of a major and much-needed overhaul, and the domestic game is on its knees.


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Scottish Rugby were confident they had found an ideal candidate to make a strong statement about the organisation’s determination to forge a positive new path. The position was initially offered at the end of April, accepted at the start of May, heads of terms were signed and plans were at an advanced stage for the unveiling, so the change of heart came as a huge surprise, disappointment and anger to the under-pressure governing body.

Scottish Rugby is also still missing an active performance director. The initial plan was to unveil that crucial appointment as soon as possible after the new CEO was in place, but that strategy has now changed with a preferred candidate identified and an announcement to be made as soon as possible.


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About David Barnes 4026 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.

38 Comments

  1. I’m sure the candidate had reasons. You can never tell what goes on in people’s lives from behind your keyboard. It’s a huge responsibility and not one to be taken lightly so I’m glad whoever they were they declared out instead trying to muck through a role they either weren’t ready, prepared or excited for.

    It’s a sh*te situation that nobody wants, but I’m reassured that SRU will start again to find a new match for the role.

    Recruitment is a nightmare, let alone for a role like this and in an organisation like this where the outgoing was a throbbing phallus. Things like candidates withdrawing happen so often we just don’t hear about it or notice because it’s not something we generally give two hoots about. But rugby, we do.

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  2. And to think Mr Dodson was ushered out the door before a new ceo was installed and now look where we are. I know he’s a hard act to follow but surely they must have had a few good candidates they can go back to

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    • Dodson should have been ushered out of the door years ago. They could have appointed a pot plant to replace him then and the result would have been Scottish rugby and it’s finances being in a far healthier state today.

      I am sure there are supporters of Liz Truss and the above mentioned Paula Vennells who thought they were both hard acts to follow but I suspect medication caused them to reconsider so there is possibly some hope for you!

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  3. V Disappointing but much will have been learned by the board in the process. Risk is knee jerk appointment in order to satisfy PR however, any well run process will have already identified potential options in some detail .. hopefully !

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    • Just add the Chairman will likely put pressure in wider leadership team to deliver more from their roles and potentially make the day to day decisions they would have a tendency to defer through Dodson’s controlling management style.

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    • Bill,
      A seat on the SRUL Board should never be a learning opportunity….
      Albert.

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  4. On reflection I have, and no doubt many others have questions that had I/they the opportunity would want to put to the individuals concerned in the search for a competent CEO.
    The first aspect I find strange is the requirement to use an outside Company of ‘Head Hunters’ although on reflection one imagines it’s to sort the Wheat from the Chaff in the first instance.
    This brings a question: has that or does that preclude any other individual approaching Roseburn Street with a CV who may well have the qualifications and attitude that is perfect for the position, if a genuine approach and obvious credibility of the individual why spend the scant resources they have to an outside Agent.
    Additionally does it preclude anyone at the SRU approaching any individual, surely to goodness there must be someone in the SRU that can think for themselves, although perhaps that was drummed out of them by the ‘my way or the Highway Regime’.
    Does this ‘Head-hunter’ company have exclusivity, surely not.
    I find it difficult to believe that from all the former players whether from the top echelons or not that there isn’t a competent candidate at the very least that somebody in Roseburn Street hasn’t approached in a social setting.
    Anyway good luck to our Soccer Cousins in Munich tomorrow night and good luck to the SRU in getting a competent individual for the Job. As a final thought perhaps there is no surprise that there aren’t any volunteers given the problems and debt left by Dodson.

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    • Headhunters work in mysterious ways George. Their main role is identifying possible candidates especially those that are already in work and perhaps not looking for a move. They then do the initial sorting before presenting what they consider the best candidates.

      SRU could be doing their own search though I doubt that (why have dog and bark yourself?) and candidates could apply on spec.

      This is embarrassing all round – for the SRU obviously but also the recruitment company. The candidate will be radioactive in the headhunter world for quite a while.

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      • Thanks for the Heads-up [no pun intended] to be honest I’ve never been Head-hunted, although on reflection there was a particular fixture down in Wales.

  5. Is this real !!! What does this say about Scottish rugby and the people that run it ???
    Need a good rugby mind ?
    Need a Scotsman
    Need a CEO with accountability and that understands a balance sheet
    Been successfully operating and making a profit and delivering coaches and players into pro ranks year on year

    One gentleman that springs to mind has done all this and worked wonders on the west coast over the years the years ,
    I better not mention his name, as Scottish people hate success

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      • There is only one person that springs to mind and all that you say is absolutely correct but to employ the main upstart at that upstart club located in the west would never do. They would rather employ another fat thieving Mancunian. The fact is he would do a fantastic job on all fronts.

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  6. Might be a blessing in disguise if that’s the level of candidates integrity, (assuming that it wasn’t SRU at fault).

  7. Might be a blessing in disguise if that’s the level of candidates integrity, (assuming that it wasn’t SRU at fault).

  8. Six weeks since the candidate accepted the offer, yet never announced.
    Even with a significant notice period to be worked, it surely gets announced with a proposed starting date.
    Fingers crossed that some due diligence didn’t expose a few nasty surprises that will come to light in the next set of accounts.

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  9. As is the way in this day and age I am obliged to offer a warning of the following comment being injurious to the reader: please be seated and comfortable prior to reading.

    They are thinking of asking Dodson to postpone his departure till after the next World Cup.

    Jokes apart, talk about not being able to organising a Booze up in a Brewery?

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  10. This is not great but it’s also not that unusual. Just we don’t hear about it.

    No point pointing fingers and blaming others. This is on the candidate. And the headhunters will get zero commission as their guy didn’t start the job. Unhappiness all round.

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  11. Whatever the reason, an adverse light continues to illuminate Murrayfield. What a terrible mess.

    SRUL Board, Crerar’s anonymous Custodians, the hapless CRB – is any of it fit for purpose?

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    • no and has never been since rugby went open we have lurched from one disaster to another and wasted tens of millions of pounds. Malinder took over £1.5m out of the coffers and what a disaster he has been as he delivered absolutely zero and was happy to sit in his house in the East Midlands laughi ng whilst counting his cash.

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      • You think you can read someone’s mind and say what they are doing yet you don’t have the intellectual ability to spell his name. You really are a ludicrous little man.

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        • Dear me, JW – what a hoofing blunder you have committed!
          You criticise an apparently honest & well-intentioned fellow for lacking the intellectual “ability” (better to have written “capacity”, dear friend) – and then proceed to refer to him (rather abusively, IMHO) as “a ludicrous little man”, when it is clear for all to see that his name is “Mann”.
          In the vernacular of the day – it appears you have just gone and “Tango-ed” yourself! I (if not Alan) hope it doesn’t hurt….

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    • Your needle is stuck, JA.
      If it becomes excessively painful, help may be available via NHS 24.
      But, you may have to wait in a queue…

  12. What calamitous news! Although the SRU won’t be able to divulge who this person is, I very much hope this person’s identity becomes common knowledge so their new employer, & any potential future employers after this, know of their lack of integrity & professionalism (that is assuming the SRU hasn’t caused this situation, e.g. by reneging on a prior agreement).
    This whole fiasco calls into question the competency of the headhunting company the SRU has used. If the SRU is having to start the whole process again from scratch then this normally means the other candidates weren’t suitable (or have withdrawn from the process). The headhunting company is usually handsomely paid for identifying & proposing SUITABLE, & interested, candidates, with the SRU then having to decide which one is most suited/ best for fulfilling their specific requirements. McGuigan needs to explain why we’ve gotten into this unacceptable situation as Dodson’s exit has been known since at least Q4 last year. This situation also calls into question the suitability & effectiveness of the SRU Board of Directors as McGuigan reports to them.

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  13. How bizarre that the same 9sort of) thing happened recently with the appointment of thenew medical officer (job offer withdrawn just before he was about to start). This is much more important and a huge blow after all the largely negative publicly over Dobson over the years.
    Poor behaviour that the person involved has pulled out after accepting though I suppose nothing can be done if he/she doesn’t wish to come.
    What about the “near misses”? can’t the board simply go back to one of them unless there was simply no one else suitable?
    Otherwise with the process starting from scratch this is going to take moths and months particularly with notice periods required by likely serious candidates.

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  14. What on earth is going on – These clowns have been in power for months and they cannot even get this sorted. Clueless – Who is going to be accountable for this failure?

    No plan for an alternative to super series
    No plan for this ‘100 million’ they have pulled out their…

    Dark Days Ahead.

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