Clubs need to take ‘a bit of responsibility’ - SRU president

Rob Flockhart is confident his motion has the backing of the clubs and hopes for a big turn-out at the SGM. Picture: SNS/SRU
Rob Flockhart is confident his motion has the backing of the clubs and hopes for a big turn-out at the SGM. Picture: SNS/SRU
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SRU president Rob Flockhart says he can’t think of a reason why clubs wouldn’t back his motion at Friday’s Special General Meeting and has urged them to “take a bit of responsibility”.

The union is seeking the approval of its members to give the green light to the pursuit of outside investment in the pro teams, which would protect the amount of investment that has been ploughed into the club and community game.

With wage inflation in the professional game running at 25 per cent, SRU chief executive Mark Dodson is seeking approval to pursue external revenue streams and Flockhart is urging clubland to turn out in numbers on Friday and give the thumbs up.

“I can’t. I honestly can’t,” is the president’s response when asked if he sees any cause for a no vote to be cast. “It is in the long-term interest of clubs.

“For the most part the clubs seem to have accepted it. There are some clubs who still have reservations, and we’re still speaking to them, but it’s down to a small handful.”

The retired solicitor and member of Boroughmuir, for whom he played before going on to be team manager for the likes of Edinburgh, Scotland U21 and Scotland A, took office at this summer’s AGM and insists he has faith in the Dodson regime to do the best for Scottish rugby.

“I’ve been around for years but I’m new to this group of people,” he said. “They are doing a lot of good things to boost the domestic game. There has been a huge increase in investment.

“It’s such a success story. The figure for investment in the clubs has gone from £1.8million to £2.9m in four years – a 63 per cent rise. If we were to suddenly do that again, another £1m in clubs’ pockets to help them be sustainable, that would help us go forward. And it would be quite an exciting time.

“Talking to some of the clubs they accept they would be in a pretty difficult situation if that money wasn’t coming in. I just want to secure their interests. That’s my job.”

The union is confident the motion will be carried, if enough of the electorate turns out on Friday evening. A two thirds majority of clubs is required, with 106 votes (each club gets two) required to make quorum. “I’m now getting the feeling that the clubs realise that what we’re trying to do is look after their interests,” said Flockhart. “I am still hoping we get sufficient people along. The possible problem is that most clubs we have spoken to want it to happen but probably see that they necessarily have to come along.

“I think we maybe have to get the message across that the clubs do need to take a bit of responsibility for their own futures. This is part of that it seems to me. We need to get a bit of trust that they should support us in taking this forward.”

While Flockhart insists his priority is the benefit to clubs, as president of the whole union he is also confident that the push for investors in Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby will be done properly, with no repeats of the unsuccessful attempt at franchising with Bob Carruthers a decade ago.

“I wasn’t around. That was a time when a lot of things were going on which weren’t in the best interests of Scottish rugby,” said Flockhart. “I don’t see any similarities. This is a highly professional outfit now. These guys want to try this for the benefit of everybody.”

It may not be easy to find the right people but the president added: “Would you rather we didn’t try? Would you rather we sat there and looked at the income at the moment and thought, ‘Well, we’ll maybe increase it by a couple of per cent?’

“Would you rather we did that? I don’t think we would. And I don’t think the stakeholders would be happy if we did.”