SRU modernisers win the day
By Paul McFarland
April 10, 2005

Scottish Rugby has followed its counterparts elsewhere in the UK by adopting a more modern structure which places strategy and policy firmly in the hands a new Scottish Rugby Board on which paid officials and elected committeemen will have equal numbers.

The former 13-man General Committee which controlled the Union is to be replaced by a purely advisory body, the Scottish Rugby Council. This will have representatives of districts and clubs as well as special interest groups - players referees, schools and women - plus the elected president. Council will meet only quarterly, but four of its members will also sit on the Board.

But there is no longer an Exiles representative at this level - clubs voted out an amendment which would have preserved an Exiles repeat on the Council, and agreed instead that those tasked with identifying Scottish players outside Scotland should instead be represented at a level further down the structure.

The decisions were all taken at a Special General Meeting of the Union's clubs at Murrayfield this morning, and will take effect following the AGM in June.

The meeting had been called to debate amendments to the report of a Working Party on Governance set up under Sheriff Bill Dunlop as a result of the "palace coup" by some of the old guard in December which saw the resignation of the reforming chairman David Mackay and his chief executive Phil Anderton. Mackay had sought to cut SRU costs partly by reducing the expenses of committee men and they duly had their revenge.

However the abolition of the General Committee means their December coup was in vain. The Union is now to be run by an Executive Board in which the "blazers" from the new Council will have four seats, the executive directors four (including the to-be-appointed chief executive, the director of rugby Ian McGeechan and the former Celtic League chief Keith Grainger); and a further four non-executive directors to be recruited.

The meeting, at which two delegates from each of the 150 or so clubs club were invited to attend, debated various amendments and did make one change to the structure of the Council, to reduce District representation in favour of more members from the Leagues; but the report was then adopted almost unanimously.

The clubs then went on to instruct the Union to get on with the job of setting up a second tier of boards to run the game at a detail level including the new performance board which will cover everything form the national team to player development and elite player development.

The new Academy to be set up at London Scottish is expected to report into this level, and its full-time manager will take over responsibility for the Exiles age group sides now that there is no longer a General Committee let alone an Exiles position on it.

After the SGM, the Union's official statement said that the "Board will run the business of the SRU subject only to its accountability to the major stakeholders in the Scottish game - the clubs, whose representatives will be elected to a Scottish Rugby Council, replacing the existing General Committee.

"The role of the Council will be to review and advise the Board.

"The Scottish Rugby Council will comprise 15 representatives:
* five from the clubs in the leagues (one each from clubs in Premier 1, Premier 2 and Premier 3 and two to represent clubs in the National Leagues not organised on a regional basis);
* five from clubs outwith the national leagues to be selected on a district basis ie one each from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Borders, North and Midlands;
* and five comprising representatives of the Scottish Women's Rugby Union, the Scottish Rugby Referees Association, the Scottish Rugby Union Schools Division; the soon-to-be formalised Scottish Rugby Players' Association; and the President of the Union (who will be elected by clubs)

"An amendment to include a representative of a Scottish Exiles Association on the new Council was lost by 94 votes to 59.

"An amendment to retain the office of vice-president of the Union was also defeated.

SRU President Gordon Dixon told delegates at the start of today's two-hour gathering: "The decisions taken today are vital to our progress in delivering a future which will be sustainable, stable, harmonious and forward-thinking.

"Many people have put a lot of hard work into ensuring Scottish Rugby is at the forefront of sport in Scotland, Britain and, indeed, the northern hemisphere in general - we must ensure that this remains the case.

"In stressing this point, I can assure you that not only will the eyes of the rugby public and the sporting bodies here in Scotland be upon this gathering today but also those of the members of the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Executive who will be mindful of what you the clubs decide today.

"I have been left in no doubt that they require us to demonstrate good governance appropriate for a leading national sporting body. We quite clearly could not argue that the way things have been managed in the past was appropriate or acceptable."

At the close of the meeting Dixon said: "I believe that you, the clubs, may have actually set the basis on which we can finally achieve a lasting harmony throughout our great sport.

"I would ask everyone in this room today to take on board the fact that as a consequence of the democratic process, decisions have been reached and agreed, and that they be accepted by all so that we can move our game forward, ensuring that all those who have an interest in Scottish Rugby, whether it be player, supporter, sponsor, member of the media, administrator or politician can once again have confidence and trust in our governance and trust in Scottish Rugby.

"Anyone who fails to appreciate and accept this basic fact must recognise that it will result in serious consequences for our game here in Scotland and I cannot emphasise that point enough."

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