FORMER Scotland lock forward Alastair McHarg has come to the defence of the general committee with a stinging attack on David Mackay, the SRU executive and current players.
McHarg, a mainstay of the Scotland pack from 1968 to 1979, now coaches Scottish Exiles teams from his London base and has represented the Exiles at district meetings in Scotland in recent months. He admitted he was delighted with the ‘vote of no confidence’ in Mackay, which prompted the chairman of the executive board to resign on Monday.
McHarg told The Scotsman: "He should have been sacked two months ago when he refused to accept the general committee’s two nominations for the unitary board. Who the hell does he think he is? Mackay was a servant of the clubs but he wasn’t prepared to accept the will of the committee and so he had to go.
"He is shocked and dismayed by the decision to fire him - well, ask Bill Watson how shocked and dismayed he was when Mackay sacked him. This is all about the men in suits saying they will run Scottish rugby, after running up a 20m debt.
"The problem was the genesis report - it was produced by the executive, Anderton and Mackay, people who don’t know rugby very well, and McGeechan, who has his own agenda and is trying to organise the SRU around the top-level. Clubs were furious with this and that message was relayed loud and clear at the meetings - I’m surprised these guys [Mackay and Anderton] have lasted as long as they have done."
McHarg agreed with the suggestion that the general committee felt guilty at failing to act in a more decisive manner as the debts mounted over the past few years and the club game struggled, and had been pressurised into making a strong statement.
"We said to the general committee ‘what are you guys doing? You’ve sat on your hands watching the executive drive this in the wrong direction’, and so they had to do something.
"This is a Scottish rugby union, a union of clubs, not a business. The grassroots of Scottish rugby is the future and all we’ve had from this executive has been bringing in second-rate overseas players, who are not really that good, compared against the potential of Scottish players, and trips to Stobo Health Spa for players, while the clubs lose thousands.
"I hear that we need businessmen running the game but what have the people in the business world done? The executive, the businessmen, have run Scottish rugby for four years with no interference and what have they achieved? It wasn’t them who put Murrayfield there - that was the amateurs. I really don’t understand these guys saying ‘we could do our job if we had the right governance’. They have had the power for four years. Actually, the [English] RFU have a three-to-one ratio of committee to executives on their management board."
He was also critical of current players, who are still considering whether to take action in protest at the changes. McHarg said: "That’s rich coming from internationals who haven’t won a decent international for a couple of seasons.
"Edinburgh, the Borders and Glasgow have been complaining all season about not getting their players, as they’ve been at national camps; well, that wasn’t the committee’s decision, it was the executive’s. Are the players now saying they agree with all the money being taken from the pro sides and spent on international rugby, or players being flown in from Australia without much notice while their wages are cut? The executive has done that.
"The executive has been the problem, the genesis report is a problem, and this should not be seen as a tragedy for Scottish rugby, but a godsend."