"Deferral" rather than pay cuts for SRU top brass in face of coronavirus crisis

Leading Scottish Rugby Union executives and coaches have agreed to take 25 per cent pay “deferrals” but not cuts in the face of the devastating Covid-19 crisis, with chief executive Mark Dodson to take a 30 per cent temporary reduction on his £933,000 salary from 1 April to 1 September.

SRU chief Mark Dodson's 933,000 salary will be deferred by 30 per cent until September. Picture: SRU/SNS

An SRU statement released today revealed top wages would be put on hold and said: “The Board of Scottish Rugby met on Friday 27 March by conference call to discuss once again the on-going impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on both the sport in Scotland and Scottish Rugby as an organisation.

“The welfare of all our staff, clubs and players were top of the agenda and a full discussion held on the steps put in place to ensure they are all supported at this difficult time.

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“It was noted that significant and detailed work is also on-going, at a pace, to review the considerable financial impacts on Scottish Rugby and the game in Scotland at all levels in respect of COVID-19.”

Rugby, as with all sport, has been put on hold by the global virus pandemic, with the cross-border Guinness Pro14, which involves pro-teams Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh, cancelled along with the domestic game for the foreseeable future.

Last week England head coach Eddie Jones will take a pay CUT of more than 25 per cent as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Jones joined executives of the English Rugby Football Union, who are braced for a £50 million loss in revenues due to the situation, in accepting a salary reduction to help limit the financial impact of the pandemic.

In Wales, players for all four regions Cardiff, Ospreys, Scarlets and Dragons, have been in talks about taking 25 per cent pay cuts in the face of the crisis.

There was no mention of the country’s professional playing staff in today’s SRU statement, which stated that “the Board approved": A 30 per cent salary deferral from 1 April to 1 September for the CEO and a 25 per cent salary/fees deferral for the same period for the Executive and non-Executive Directors.

“Additionally, the country’s three main head coaches Gregor Townsend (Scotland), Richard Cockerill (Edinburgh) and Dave Rennie (Glasgow Warriors) have also agreed to a 25 per cent salary deferral alongside Jim Mallinder Director of Performance Rugby for the same period, as appropriate.

“These initial steps and other steps will be reviewed ongoing in light of the challenge the sport faces.”

All Blacks head coach Ian Foster has also said he will take a pay cut, with players to follow suit as New Zealand Rugby cuts expenses while professional competitions are halted during the outbreak.

Foster told New Zealand radio he and other coaches had agreed to “substantial” pay cuts but did not give a percentage figure.

Scotland’s final Six Nations match away to Wales in Cardiff was postponed on the eve of the game as the severity of a situation which had led to both other fixtures on the closing weekend put off long before.

Scotland Women’s final three matches away to Italy, home to France and away to Wales were all postponed. One Scottish player contracted the virus while in Legnano near Milan for the Italy match which was called off after the first two deaths in the Lombardy region that weekend. She is recovering well.

There was controversy at the start of the year when it emerged Dodson’s salary had doubled to just under £1 million and other top executives pay also shot up as bonuses from a five-year bonus incentive scheme kicked in. He earns £582,000 more a year than his WRU counterpart Martyn Phillips on £351,000, despite the Welsh union’s £90.5m turnover compared to the SRU’s £61m.

The combined wage bill for the three other executive directors of Scottish Rugby, chief operating officer Dominic McKay, finance director Andrew Healey and general counsel Robert Howatt, also more than doubled from £535,000 in 2018 to £1,178,000 when the new financial figures were released

An SRU statement at the time said the increased pay was to “reflect the individuals’ contribution to its Long Term Incentive Plan to deliver on the organisation’s strategic initiatives and targets”.

In today's statement on the wage deferrals, SRU chairman of the board Colin Grassie added: "We are working extremely hard to navigate the sport of rugby in Scotland through these extremely challenging times. We would like to thank all our staff, sponsors, stakeholders for their support and collaboration.

“We have a huge challenge ahead of us, but we will get there together and we will leave no stone left unturned to ensure the long term sustainability of Scottish Rugby and the sport in Scotland.”

The SRU statement also updated that "all work on Project Eden, the new stadium for Edinburgh Rugby development on the BT Murrayfield back pitches, has been suspended until further notice in line with public health guidelines" and that Scottish Rugby continues to work closely with World Rugby and its fellow Unions in relation to the international calendar moving forward and has no update on the planned 2020 Summer Tour at this time."

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