SRU President Dee Bradbury has decided not to issue a clarification of an email she sent to club representatives over the weekend about Stuart Cameron – despite it being a clear misrepresentation of what had gone on between the video producer and the governing body.
Bradbury wrote in the email that Cameron had “retracted” a statement he made about the ban against him creating a highlights packages of club games in the Borders. In fact, it was the SRU who retracted that ban after an uproar on social media in support of Cameron, with Murrayfield sending a later email accepting that he could continue to produce the video content as before.
Bradbury did phone Cameron on Sunday to apologise for the ‘misunderstanding’ and he is satisfied that this latest twist in the story was cock-up rather than conspiracy. However, it remains unclear why neither the president nor any of her colleagues feels able to correct that misunderstanding by directly contacting the clubs who received her original email.
An SRU spokesman has said that Bradbury will be able to field questions on the issue at Thursday’s Council meeting, but this is subject to corporate confidentiality. This completely evades the normal practice of correcting mistakes by getting in touch with the relevant people.
The issue relates to the furious storm which erupted on Friday after Cameron posted a statement on Facebook in which he explained why he would no longer be producing the packages for local television station ITV Border and his own internet site.
An SRU spokesman told The Offside Line on Friday morning that Cameron had jumped the gun because talks were still ongoing, and expressed displeasure that he had chosen to go public at that stage (which is highly ironic given that this was just a day after the SRU were reprimanded, fined and told to apologise by World Rugby for their public response to the threat of Scotland’s crucial World Cup pool match being called off).
The SRU insist that a draft email to Cameron which confirmed his level of access as being pretty much exactly the same as it before had been written on Thursday but not sent. Given that this is a straight-forward issue, it seems curious that at least two earlier emails from SRU ‘content manager’ Jamie McMillan on Thursday left Cameron in no doubt that he was no longer allowed to film matches (unless a right’s deal could be negotiated with the SRU’s corporate department), and it wasn’t until after the backlash on Friday that the single email which clarified no real change arrived.
After receiving this third email, Cameron agreed with the SRU to publish an update statement, but was adamant that he stood by his initial statement as accurately reflecting the situation at the time of publication.
His update said –
“I’m humbled by the overwhelming support following my earlier statement. Scottish Rugby have clarified a difference of interpretation of our ongoing conversation, the upshot of which is I’m allowed to cover club rugby.
“I genuinely believed the door was shut but I’m pleased Scottish Rugby have engaged with me. I thank Scottish Rugby for this and am happy with the very satisfactory outcome.”
This was published at 2pm on Friday, with Cameron relieved to be able to move on after a fairly harrowing 36 hours.
But then on Saturday morning he was shown an email from Bradbury – which had been distributed to clubs via their Council members soon after his own updated statement – in which she discussed the affair. “This has now been fully clarified with Mr Cameron and he has entered a retraction on his social media,” she wrote.
Cameron was initially incandescent and made his thoughts known to Murrayfield. To her credit, Bradbury quickly got in contact and he was ultimately grateful for the opportunity to give his side of the story and explain some of the frustrations he has had in recent years with how the SRU micro-manage his access.
However, it is disappointing that an email which misleadingly portrays Cameron as having stepped out of line has now been widely distributed amongst clubs, and there has not been a clarification sent out to the same mailing list.
This is important because it says a lot about the SRU’s relationship with its membership.
It is very hard to interpret this sequence of events as anything other than an attempt to put out of business a hard-working and highly-regarded member of the press corp who has a long and unblemished record of promoting the club game, with zero regard for the negative impact this would have on the profile of Borders rugby.
It was dressed up as an attempt to haggle a fee for the rights to those games, but the SRU know fine well that two-minute highlight packages of club games have no commercial value. Indeed, they are covering the costs of getting Super6 on the BBC Scotland website themselves.
Once the move against Cameron backfired, rather than address how it had got to that stage, Murrayfield has circled the wagons, and whether it is by accident or design they have actively portrayed the victim as the culprit.
We all make mistakes from time to time, they can be a blow to our egos, and we might have to swallow our pride before correcting them and/or apologising – but we learn to do so from an early age. The SRU, however, appear unwilling to lose face by making any public admission of error at all.
Bradbury’s apology to Cameron was no doubt entirely sincere, but it came after the SRU – rather than admitting they had changed their stance – asked him to issue a statement saying he had misunderstood the matter. Instead of admitting that at least one of their employees had got things wrong, their instinct, not for the first time, was to hush things up and pretend it was someone else’s fault.
Hopefully this matter is now at an end, and Cameron can continue to produce his highlights package while the relevant people inside Murrayfield learn the appropriate lessons.
But it does once more raise the question about how the governing body behaves: instead of being open and inclusive, it (or at least some influential people within it) defaults to heavy-handed and secretive behaviour when under scrutiny.