SIR BILL GAMMELL and Norman Murray endured a challenging few hours at last night’s ‘town hall’ meeting of SRU member clubs, which was called to discuss the two businessmen’s recently published “Corporate Governance and Business Review”.
There was a media ban on attending this event, on the basis that it was purely ‘an opportunity for clubs to hear’ from the two authors of the radical report which recommends disbanding both the SRU Council (as the elected body charged with overseeing the work of the Scottish Rugby Board) and the SRU Trust (which owns Murrayfield on behalf of member clubs).
However, there was not the same restrictions on Al Kellock and Chris Paterson – former Scotland captains and current SRU employees, but not club delegates – being positioned at the top table.
The gathering was informed that answers to questions on the review which had been submitted beforehand are available on the SRU website: CLICK HERE.
SRU President Dee Bradbury then opened the meeting but was quickly interrupted with a point of order from the floor relating to executive remuneration in light of Wednesday’s revelations regarding SRU chief executive Mark Dodson‘s eye-watering £933k salary for the year up to the end of May 2019, and specifically whether last August’s AGM had been misled about this.
Bradbury denied that this was the case and SRU Board Chairman Colin Grassie intervened to state that this was not the forum for such a discussion. Club delegates were directed to submit questions on the matter via their Council representatives.
After the screening of an SRU video package – of the sort which has become synonymous with promotional activity conducted by the governing body in recent years – Kellock and Paterson began a question and answer session with Gammell and Murray.
One club delegate later reported that he had been very impressed that Gammell managed to repeat the SRU slogan “as one” on three separate occasions, as well as recite the five values which appear at the bottom of almost every communication which comes from Murrayfield – ‘Leadership’, ‘Engagement’, ‘Achievement’, ‘Enjoyment’ and ‘Respect’ – without use of a prompt card.
“He’s not interested in past, just the future, it’s about leaving a legacy for the children – but it was a tough audience so we weren’t shedding a tear,” concluded the delegate.
“They used the [organisational structure] models in the report very cutely, showing the members to executives as a long line even when that’s not actually how it works … and the Trust and Trustees as part of the structure when it is no such thing!” the delegate added. “They then presented their brave new world as bringing the clubs closer to the Board and execs – when there is a view that it takes us even further away.”
The issue of private equity investment came up, and how skills would be required specifically for this. “The issue with that is that it is will be the current Board that makes the call on the private equity investment and they haven’t been selected under the new Gammell process,” pointed out a sceptical club official.
This section of the meeting finished with Gammell stressing to the room that he fears for the future if clubs don’t approve his recommendations, followed by a rousing cry for everyone to ‘get behind the team’.
There then came the opportunity to ask questions from the floor, with an early query being about an apparent lack of strategy. While it was acknowledged that strategy wasn’t very visible in the review, Grassie stated that this was taken care of on page 59 of the SRU Annual Report –
Further questions and answers included –
- Q. Why not update Council instead of abolishing it?
- A. Would appear that is not a viable option as it’s not a company structure.
- Q. How will budget be allocated to the new Rugby Development Board which will be set-up to oversee the domestic game?
- It will be allocated by the main Board with a three-year plan. It will be “fought” for by the Director of Rugby Development … a full-time employee of the SRU.
- Q. Will regional rugby miss out on new structure as their needs aren’t the same as National League or Premiership? And will clubs lose democratic oversight?
- A, In Gammell’s view, the regional clubs representation will be through their Regional Managers and Directors [full-time SRU employees] feeing into Director of Rugby Development.
- “Let me just say, that is a non starter as my club is concerned, and for many others that I caught up with after the meeting,” stated one regional club delegate when discussing this particular question.
- Q. What other models did Gammell and Murray look at?
- The Professional Golfers Association (PGA), the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and the Football Association in England (FA). The Chief Executives of other rugby countries also canvassed, who were – perhaps unsurprisingly –unenthusiastic about their governance structure. The RFU in England was reference with their 50 plus Council members was referenced
- Q. Why is there not a range of options being put forward at this stage?
- A. No real answer forthcoming.
Afterwards, a number of Council members made it known that they have not agreed in principle with the report, as has been suggested on several occasions during the last few weeks and again at this meeting – rather they agreed in principle to releasing the report to clubs without comment or recommendation so that the clubs themselves can make their own (uninfluenced) decision.
It is not clear where things go from here, however a number of league forum meetings next week may help clarify the position of the clubs, and the SRU Council meeting today [Thursday] could also be interesting.
The SRU media department has indicated that a full video recording of the meeting will be made available on the SRU website at some point today.