New SRU president Alan Lawson backs lofty targets
FORMER Scotland scrum-half Alan Lawson was this weekend unveiled as the new president of the SRU at the Union’s least turbulent annual general meeting for years.
The retired businessman, who won 15 caps for Scotland between 1972-80, takes over from former Scotland and Lions prop Ian McLauchlan, whose two-year tenure was so effective that he has been asked to stay on the SRU board as a non-executive director and has agreed.
Lawson, while stressing that he would adhere to the more usual one-year tenure, promised to carry on McLauchlan’s good work, and threw his weight behind an ambitious new four-year plan which has three headline targets: Scotland winning the next World Cup, winning a first Six Nations title by 2016 and rising to sixth in the world rankings by that time.
Asked whether he thought these were realistic targets, he said: “I don’t think that anyone committing themselves to a professional life in rugby would set any lower targets. Your ambition as a youngster is to play winning rugby.
“A championship would be a good start, but why not go for a grand slam? In the past we’ve had to rely on other countries to some extent being in a rebuilding phase. What we’re seeing now is that countries are getting stronger and stronger; so standing still is not an option. We have to be ambitious all the time in the way we approach the game.
“But we’re in a good place. I will contribute as much as I can, but we have a terrific team now at Scottish rugby and we need to get behind them and really drive through the strategy plan and everything else that were looking to do.”
Although Lawson, whose place as SRU vice-president was taken by former Lions doctor Donald Macleod from Selkirk, has had a semi-detached relationship with the game for a good deal of the past 30 years, he remains a committed member of Heriot’s and has stayed in close touch with the game through family ties. His father-in-law was Bill McLaren, for whose charity foundation the SRU president has done much work, and his son is Scotland scrum-half Rory. That latter tie has ensured that he has an empathy and knowledge of the professional game which not all administrators of his generation have always shared.
“A lot of people of my generation have not found the professional game easy to come to terms with,” he said. “A lot of guys are less interested now, but I was involved in coaching for a while then took a step back from that and followed my kids. I get an enormous pleasure from watching rugby. I took the view that it would be better to try and be involved by actively getting involved with the SRU rather than sitting on the sidelines.”
Lawson also said that his focus would be on the game’s grassroots. “I took this on because, fundamentally, it is the grass roots of the game that I care about,” he said. “Obviously the professional game is being run professionally, but it is the grass roots of the game, and especially the clubs who are not thriving, that has been one of the main drivers of me getting involved again.
“I will be visiting as many clubs as I possibly can. I did that in my year as vice-president, which is a great way of meeting clubs and hearing first-hand what the issues are. It’s not easy in a relatively small rugby community to have professional rugby, clubs with ambitions and money and grassroots clubs that just want to be amateur. It’s a difficult scenario.”
Apart from Lawson’s appointment, it was a generally low-key AGM. New chief executive Mark Dodson, overseeing his first AGM, reported a surplus of £1.6 million and a £3.1m increase in turnover to £38.2m, with bank debt standing at £13.4m.
Edinburgh and Glasgow have both had their playing budgets increased to £4.2m each, which puts them in line with the teams in the English premiership (although teams in the Aviva are also allowed to spend a one-off sum of up to £500,000 on a star player).
Dodson also outlined a series of other improvements, including a refocusing of the Union “on rugby and our customers” that he said had been lacking under the previous regime. Under Dodson and chairman Moir Lockhead the SRU has provided several customer-friendly innovations, such as online ticket sales, reopening the car park, giving pitchside access during Edinburgh games and allowing Edinburgh fans access to the President’s Suite.
At international level there has also been palpable determination to push players through as early as possible, which has led to the blooding of 13 new internationalists, including youngsters Stuart Hogg and David Denton. The Union have provided the funds to allow Andy Robinson to recruit highly rated coaches in Scott Johnson and Matt Taylor, and restated their faith in national coach Andy Robinson following the unprecedented feat of Scotland winning three matches on the bounce in the southern hemisphere.
At pro-team level, the chief executive also lauded Edinburgh’s success in reaching the Heineken Cup semi-final for the first time and Glasgow’s achievement in reaching the Rabo play-offs.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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