Sir Bill Gammell and Norman Murray endure challenging meeting with club reps

Media blackout doesn't stop TOL getting an early insight from club delegates

Sir Bill Gammell, alongside his long-time colleague Norman Murray, hosted a presentational meeting with SRU member clubs last night [Wednesday]. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

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.


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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’.

Secret strategy?

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.


Will the Gregor Townsend tombola throw up any surprise winners this Six Nations?

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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1818 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

10 Comments

  1. Dodson did a good job at cutting costs and getting things back on an even keel, just as he did at the Guardian. However now the need is to increase participation and spectators much like Formula 1 did, and for that he’s no Bernie Ecclestone. Someone like Nathan Brombys has a much more convincing CV, which does raise some questions about self interest in these proposals. In talking to others in the region I picked up some common themes which I have summarised below, many as points that other clubs may wish to take up with their council members.

    1. The issue of liability would suggest that the clubs could be liable for any indebtedness that the executive might incur. The limitations on who is liable for what and how the various organisations are interconnected needs much more clarity.
    2. There should be some limitations on what the executive can do, red lines if you will. e.g. Mortgaging the stadium should require approval of say 75% of the clubs.
    3. There appears to be an assumption that the current paid employees will automatically assume the leadership positions in the new executive. If the current structure is not fit for purpose then logically the individual roles are unlikely to map directly to roles in the new organisations.
    4. All roles, and especially that of the CEO and CFO should be advertised and the existing leadership invited to apply.
    5. The current contracts held by the current leadership should be terminated if and when the current structure ends.
    6. Appointments to the proposed executive should be made by an appointments body which would include representatives of the clubs, those representatives not to hold Compensation of any new executive to be ratified annually by the AGM as in any public company.
    7. The current council and its immediate predecessors have failed to hold the executive to account, have not provided the necessary transparency required by a sports governing body, and have provided little in the way of feedback to the clubs. Consequently a new independent (of the executive) body that can hold the executive to account is required.
    8. The SRU must publish and maintain an organisational chart incuding all permanent and contract staff.
    9. The SRU must cease the use of zero hour contracts and short term contracts. Staff working with clubs must be able to act for the clubs without fear of losing their livelihood.
    10. Local development officers cannot coach or play rugby as club member. They cannot assess the strengths of the clubs they represent if they cannot visit the clubs they are directly responsible on match day or at training due to commitments to a club. Regional development officers must not be used as a means of supporting a semi-professional player.

  2. Obviously consulting other bodies amounts simply to concluding that the they pay their executives more and control the flow information better – so, oh, we’d better pay what they do, otherwise it means our executives are not proper grown up executives; then we must ensure that their sacred plans and pronouncements may not be questioned and criticised, and so will also have a Pretorian guard to protect them, and through whom only may access to wisdom be enabled. Little people don’t understand these sort of things, but they will when we have told them enough times.

  3. Well I guess that was what most people expected?
    It even appears that Madam President is purely there to allow the SRU to tick the box for having a female President. Yet another account of Mr Grassie acting as a SRU bully.
    He is of course in similar company. Those who were found wanting by the Judge in the Keith Russelll affair! They just don’t get it. So many opportunities to clear the air but they just keep ploughing deeper and deeper upsetting those who really care about Scottish Rugby. I get the impression their plan is to sicken nearly everyone in the hope that they will give in and walk away. Keith Russell was strong enough to stand up against them and he won his case. Voting members need to do the same!
    The message to those with a vote is clearly evident following yet another bad showing by those in power at the top.They show little respect to the members and clubs.
    VOTE NO!!!!!

    • To be fair Mr Grassie is a very polite bully!

      Every club has one. A polite waffler who takes no notice of what is said and acts an an apologist for bad behaviour.

      Fortunately most clubs have the common sense not to elect their version to any significant position of authority.

  4. There can’t be many people who think the pay levels are acceptable. They show the weakness in SRU governance. From what I understand the Gammell proposal is supposed to make governance more professional but its major flaw seems to be that appointments to senior posts will not be accountable to rugby’s stakeholders (clubs/players etc.). Dodson has proven to be a decent businessman but it’s pretty clear how he is motivated when not kept in check. Let’s hope the clubs can organise to be progressive but keep rugby in the hands of it’s stakeholders. We need a strong pro game but we must develop the player base – by growing in state schools and retaining players in the adult game.
    Thanks David for keeping everyone informed.

  5. The SRU are looking more and more like a communist dictatorship trying desperately to manage information so that only that which they approve is released for public consumption. They would do well to remember what became of those dictatorships and what became of the likes of Nicolae Ceaușescu and how his lasting legacy is as someone who held back his country for years and years.

  6. If the SRU don’t get their way they’ll bully it through quietly, eg reduced 6N ticket allocations for those that vote NO. Wonder if anyone will have the enthusiasm for Silver Saturday this year, essentially 2nd XVs in the Cup as well.

    • Having read all the arguments given in this forum I felt the need to hear what the other side had to say. Norman Murray was composed and answered most questions very well, however Sir Bill Gammell rambled aimlessly at the start and really didn’t get any better. The common theme for me was how “radical and bold” this package was along with “skillsets and diversity” for those nominated for positions on any of the boards. Madam President had a poor start and was kicked of the stage by the Mr Grassie unceremoniously, in my opinion, when asked about her knowledge of the bonus award to Mark Dodson. The real painful point came when they were asked about the Nolan Principles and how could the members trust the Management after their performances over the last couple of years, silence greeted the horde! Thankfully there were better educated individuals in the room asking the questions much more eloquently than myself. All in all I look forward to my regional forum next week.

  7. It was quite a surreal meeting.

    For an Independent Review it used the full works of the SRU to make the case.

    The interventions of Mr Grassie were rather odd. He disclosed that he had written to the Council and Board in the last few days about the remuneration issue. He signed off the accounts on the 17 July! He also made a reference to the Japan debacle for no apparent reason – no question was asked about it.

    I was struck by the similarities to previous agms and sgms. This is the plan, we think it’s the best for scottish rugby (no evidence given!). If you don’t approve this very bad things will happen.

    Tonight’s Council meeting will be fascinating.

  8. It’s a disgrace to democracy,it’s a stitch up,a gang of self preservation of jobs for the boys .It’s not about furthering the future of rugby,or facilitating the revenues to bolster clubs .It’s smoke and mirrors hiding the real reasons why and what they do,it’s a private club within a club .Surely someone has a brain and get rid of these charlatans.

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