Comment: Scottish rugby will benefit from recruitment of skilled professionals to SRU board

Norman Murray, left, and Sir Bill Gammell and their report. Picture: SNS/SRU
Norman Murray, left, and Sir Bill Gammell and their report. Picture: SNS/SRU
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Some ten years after professionalism came into rugby union, the Dunlop Report future-proofed the Scottish Rugby Union, but not forever. Another 15 years on from this report, Scottish Rugby requires further change, to better prepare for the demands of modern 
rugby.

Professional rugby needs a professional structure, in which a recruitment process – not an election process – fills the key positions responsible for its strategic direction.

This is a key plank of the report published last week by Sir Bill Gammell and Norman Murray which recommends far-reaching changes to the structure of the governing body.

That individuals for each independent position could be selected on the basis of their skillset is a significant improvement on the current election process.

Skilled individuals from commerce, industry and rugby would be recruited on merit, based on what they have to offer the game in Scotland.

The significant reduction in the frequency of the various board meetings means that a wider skill set and age demographic will be attracted to apply for the various independent positions that need to be filled.

The efficiency of carrying out Scottish Rugby business will be enhanced. 

The club game in Scotland will, for the first time, have its own board, the Rugby Development Board, which would enhance the strength and bargaining power of the grassroots game. The number of rugby-based appointees in independent roles across the various boards is a significant increase from what exists at present.

This will ensure that better rugby-based decisions are made in the future, combined with, but not solely driven by, commercial and financial imperatives. 

Success on the pitch for the national team is essential for the health of the game in Scotland, so more rugby skilled appointees on the proposed new boards is a definite improvement.

Our under-20 national team has dropped out of their Tier 1 annual competition and the Scotland team fell short of its goals in the recent Rugby World Cup.

Against that background, rugby in Scotland faces real challenges. We need more boys and girls playing the game and a smoother transition for them to continue playing in clubs long after they reach the age of 17.

The clubs these rugby players go to after school are being asked to approve the Gammell-Murray report. Many of those clubs are struggling to get teams out, recruit volunteers and be financially sustainable.

For them to have their own board, with specific skilled recruited appointees, many of whom they nominate, deserves their approval.

Under this proposal, clubs would no longer elect their representatives on to council. Instead, five clubs are required to support nominations for suitable rugby candidates to be recruited on to the new boards.

Democratic accountability to clubs will be intrinsically linked to each group of five clubs nominating each of the rugby appointees, to the various boards.

Direct accountability and greater transparency have been pledged by the new boards to all member clubs. Therefore clubs, through their own proposed new Rugby Development Board, will be better placed to monitor any proposed changes in the game in Scotland.

This board will have its own budget to be invested in the domestic game across Scotland.

The Gammell-Murray proposals offer a compelling vision of how to deliver the essential functions of a sporting governing body, while recognising the competitive, commercial world which Scotland inhabits.

The fundamental approach is to place people with real rugby knowhow and skills that the game needs into positions of accountability. The main Scottish Rugby Board will have to answer to its shareholders – the member clubs across Scotland.

This is a positive approach for our game and I hope our clubs embrace the proposals.
l Euan Kennedy is club president of Watsonians Rugby and was capped four times by Scotland, playing in the 1984 Grand Slam wins over Wales and England.