SHEILA BEGBIE has announced that she will retire as Scottish Rugby’s Director of Rugby Development – overseeing the grassroots game in Scotland – in the summer. Murrayfield will be opening an external application process in the coming weeks as they seek to fill her position.
Begbie will remain in post for the time being to support both the Return to Rugby programme planned to roll out in line with an eventual easing of lockdown and to support the transition process with her successor.
She is the most recent senior figure to announce their departure from Murrayfield in recent months, following former Head of External Affair Tavish Scott, who left to become Chief Executive of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation in November, and Chief Operating Officer Dominic McKay, who will become Chief Executive of Celtic Football Club in the summer.
The former head of Girls’ and Women’s Football at the Scottish Football Association (SFA), who was awarded an MBE for services to woman’s football in 2001, initially joined Scottish Rugby in August 2014 as Head of the Women & Girl’s programme, a position she held for three years before taking over her current role from the illegally sacked Keith Russell.
She oversaw a restructuring of Scottish Rugby’s Rugby Development department, aimed at creating a regionalised model of delivery to clubs with the the stated aim of ‘local solutions for local issues’.
More recently, her department has been praised at grassroots level for their professional and sympathetic handling of the issues raised by the Covid crisis.
“I can honestly say I have had the best years of my career at Scottish Rugby,” she said. “It has been a hugely challenging and enjoyable experience from the outset.
“I have had fantastic support from the many colleagues I have been fortunate to work with, both in the Rugby Development department and across the organisation.
“My role has enabled me to develop close connections across the clubs and schools in Scotland, with the clubs being the heartbeat of the game, and I would like to pay particular thanks to the army of volunteers who every day give up their time to support the sport they love.
“I hope I have had a positive impact on rugby in Scotland over the past seven years and wish everyone connected with the game well in the years ahead.”
Scottish Rugby President Ian Barr said: “Sheila was a breath of fresh of air when she came in and it didn’t take her long to gain the confidence of the clubs. She is very approachable and has a real ability to listen which in turn led to great engagement and consultation.
“Sheila and her department have recently helped manage us through one of the most difficult times club rugby has had to deal with, so we will genuinely be sad to see her go.
“I’m glad there will be a handover period and we can keep working with her in the months ahead and she will leave with our thanks and best wishes when the time comes.”
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Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Mark Dodson said: “I would like to record my thanks to Sheila for the significant contribution she has made to Scottish Rugby over the last seven years.
“Her proactivity and experience have enabled us to completely refocus how we worked with clubs the length and breadth of the country and she deserves huge credit for successfully undertaking that work, which has generated a greatly improved local connection with our community clubs.
“Sheila has made a big difference to our organisation firstly in the women and girls programme and then the Rugby Development department and I’ve greatly enjoyed working with her.
She leaves behind a real legacy and we wish her well for her retirement.”
John Jeffrey, Chairman of Scottish Rugby, also paid tribute to Begbie. “We will all miss Sheila and wish her a happy retirement,” he said.
“She took on a huge task when appointed into the Rugby Development role and went about making necessary changes to how we work with our community clubs, which I believe will hold us in good stead for the years ahead.
“She has been a driving force for positive change and is respected across rugby in Scotland.
“Her department play an essential role to develop and grow the game and through her leadership it is well placed make a positive impact once rugby can resume.”