Don't expect a revolution to overthrow regime, but change sure to come at Murrayfield

ONE article reveals behind-the-scenes discord, and the Scottish rugby community is suddenly awash with talk of meltdown and stays of execution.

And, supposedly, all it takes to quell such concern is one press release from the Scottish Rugby Union to say all is well; nothing to see here, move along now. But what we lifted the lid on this week in The Scotsman was not a one-off, knee-jerk spat. And an anodyne press release will not alter matters.

Concern has been heightening over the direction of Scottish rugby for some time, the most easily spotlighted area being the lack of growth in the professional game, which is Scottish rugby's shop window for most of the year and is taking on the appearance of a high street dominated by charity shops.

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In reality, as we outlined on Thursday, the often confrontational, bombastic style of the SRU chief executive Gordon McKie and finance director Eamon Hegarty in dealing with testy situations is beginning to catch up with them. It's not an approach proven to achieve much when dealing with sporting communities, and there is now a trail through the Scottish game, and further afield, of disputes that have left a nasty taste in the mouth.

The duo at the helm have done what it said on their tin - cut costs, reduced borrowings so decreased the debt pile and started to move the SRU finances in the right direction. That was their background, and what they were asked to do.

But even the finances are being picked apart by critics now as they discover that six years of that approach only takes them so far in a sporting world. The increased income of 5m and reduced overdraft of nearly 5m are positive signs, but because of commercial confidentiality we can only guess at how much the Six Nations, Heineken Cup and Magners League competition revenues, and BBC broadcast income, have increased in recent years.

The decision to sell Test tickets significantly earlier is also said to have brought an income of 4m into accounts the year before the games take place.

What it underlines is that accounting procedures can help tighten finances, but little can change the difficulties faced by a nation operating with fewer players and less income without new ideas for growth, and new revenue streams being opened up.

That is what the board have been querying lately: the cut and cut approach, without a strategic plan for growth. The presence of Sir Moir Lockhead at recent board meetings may also have had an impact. He has asked questions, simple, straightforward, non-confrontational I understand, but queries over decisions that have checked the executives and made them think about his influence as board chairman after the agm on 25 June.Lockhead is understood to be very uneasy with media talk of him being a white knight, and is as aware of the enormity of the challenge he is taking on in his non-executive role as anyone inside Murrayfield.

The board members unhappy at recent events also have to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they have been reading their rugby communities properly and challenging the executives in the way they are expected to over the past six years. McKie is ultimately responsible, and his particular style of leadership is a key issue, but he cannot be wholly accountable for Scottish rugby's ills.

However, if anything was achieved by the stramash of the last eight or nine days, it was a clearer understanding that Scottish rugby has a robust governance system that allows for challenges and change. That is the legacy of the 2005 upheaval and implementation of the Dunlop Report's proposals on governance, and why there will not be a similar crisis now despite fears expressed from inside Murrayfield this week that we could be heading back to the bad old days.

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When chairman Allan Munro's predecessor David Mackay took over in June, 2003, he famously took '100 days' to appraise himself of the business and then acted by asking chief executive Bill Watson to step aside, and setting in place the foundations for a new governance that would allow the executive to better run Scottish rugby.

Admitting sympathy for Watson's efforts under the old governance, Mackay said then: "Many chief executives would say 'I cannae run a business like that,' and Bill Watson couldn't which is why I have a lot of feeling for him, but when you are on the back foot in your own 22 for a long time you can't get out of it so you have to change.

"The message is that the obstacles, the hurdles, the difficulties haven't changed but they will be easier to tackle and manage and overcome. We had to lift the whole mood up. We had also to listen to opinion and I don't think we have been."

Sir Moir Lockhead should not be expected to make swift changes, without first analysing the business and strength and weaknesses within it, and we are well used to talk of fiery agms and then finding that they pass with little more than a whimper. Do not be surprised if there are no serious ructions between now and the agm in two weeks' time.

Of course, in any emotive situation there can be a flashpoint at any time - and there is an outstanding complaint about the chief executive which we do not have the outcome of yet - but there is unlikely to be a push towards revolution within the next fortnight.

Change will occur, however. It is up to the main players to determine whether they can be part of the change or should step aside.Rest assured that we will continue to ask questions, probe and report whatever the outcome of a power struggle which is critical to the future of Scottish rugby.