Anderton demands change

PHIL Anderton, the man behind the firework and bagpipe extravaganza which so infuriated Sir Clive Woodward on Saturday, was yesterday named as the Scottish Rugby Union’s new chief executive.

Votes of confidence do not come much more resounding than that, and SRU chairman David Mackay - who sacked Anderton’s predecessor Bill Watson - said that the SRU’s commercial and marketing director represented all that was good about the way the Union had transformed its image in the past four years.

The 38-year-old beat off a short-list of top candidates from around the world to land the high-profile job and immediately vowed to instil a winning culture and make the international side strong again.

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"Phil has the unanimous support of the board which follows an international search that produced a shortlist of five very impressive candidates," Mackay said. "We see the appointment as a further fundamental step in bringing about radical change in the running of Scottish rugby.

"Over three years Phil has completely transformed the SRU’s commercial activities and has brought a new dimension to the way the organisation thinks and acts. Anyone who attended Murrayfield on Saturday must have been impressed by the fruits of his labour, but he has demonstrated a much wider range of talent that the skills required for his current role.

"He more than measured up against a significant number of talented candidates. He has an intimate knowledge of sport and rugby, particularly in Scotland, and he understands the need and the urgency for change and how the game is run and structured. In a nutshell, he is a modern and forward-looking manager and in his new role will be able to make an immense contribution to shaping a successful future for the game in Scotland. I’m very much looking forward to working with him."

Since taking over as marketing director in June 2000, Anderton has proved himself adept at putting bums on seats. From empty stadiums at the 1999 Rugby World Cup, and unprecedented criticism heaped on the SRU as a result, Anderton was able to raise ticket prices to as high as 60 and still increase demand to the extent that supporters have queued for hours for briefs. The turnaround was achieved through a variety of ambitious ticketing initiatives and a radical overhaul of pre-match entertainment.

The spectacular build-up to Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match did not please Woodward, with the England coach describing it as being "more like a pop concert than a rugby match". Anderton, however, was unrepentant. "[Woodward] is entitled to his opinion, but I am more interested in what Scottish supporters felt about it than the English coach, and the feedback I have had has been very encouraging."

Underlining the success of the concerted bid to attract more people to Murrayfield on match days, ticket income has risen from 4million to more than 6million since his arrival, and more young supporters are coming to Test matches than they did than prior to 1999. In addition, sponsorship income has trebled and broadcast coverage has increased during Anderton’s tenure.

Anderton’s background is in marketing and this is the first time he has held the position of chief executive. He came to the SRU after a successful spells with Procter and Gamble and Coca-Cola. He said the pride he felt watching Saturday’s Calcutta Cup match, knowing he was to be unveiled as the new man at the helm just two days later, had brought home the prestige of his new position.

He said: "On Saturday, I met former internationals from the 1990 Grand Slam and other people involved in the game at all levels and I realised what a fantastic honour it is for me to be made chief executive of the Scottish Rugby Union. It is a time of great change in Scottish rugby and I will be dedicating my time to developing Scottish rugby, helping to lead the debate and challenging the status quo, because we cannot afford to stand still. We must be moving forward.

"We have got to transfer and translate the virtual participation we have in our game to real participation, people actively involved in the game whether volunteering or playing the game. Secondly, we need financial security irrespective of on-field success, and thirdly we need a winning rugby culture where we don’t accept performances where our teams are not winning. We want our teams at all levels to be winning.

"How are we going to do that? The most important thing we are going to have to get is unity in our game. When I looked at the match on Saturday and saw some of the performances by the Scotland team and heard people saying ‘isn’t Matt Williams doing a great job?’ I think Matt is doing a great job. But it wasn’t just Matt Williams that produced the performances of these players - it was the professional coaches, the clubs who developed these players, the schools, the volunteers, everyone involved in rugby.

"That is what we have got to deliver - having everyone in the game working in the same direction. And I’m sure with the support of the rugby public and stakeholders we can make Scotland stronger in rugby."

The appointment of Mackay to the post of chairman of the SRU’s executive board has been the biggest thing to hit Scottish rugby perhaps in its history. After dismissing Watson in December he has driven a radical reshaping of the structure of the union while acting as temporary chief executive.

Mackay has stepped down, with Anderton taking over immediately, but the former will continue with the ongoing review of the game. It is clear Mackay feels he has found, in Anderton, a strong, like-minded figure he can pass the reins to and work alongside in following through on his promise to bring success to Scottish rugby.

Mackay added: "We had applications from Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, Russia, North America, Australia, New Zealand and Asia - 120-odd in total. We boiled that down to a shortlist of five people, and they were interviewed extensively. It was viewed on a dispassionate basis and all of us involved in that interview process independently - I wasn’t involved in them all - reached the same conclusion that Phil was the right man for the job. He was head and shoulders above the rest."