Mark Dodson: Scottish Rugby chief signs new contract and will remain in post until 2025

Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson’s contract has been extended through to June 2025.

SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson has signed a new deal.
SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson has signed a new deal.

The deal was due to end in December 2023, but a further 18 months has been added.

After 11 years in the job, he is already the SRU’s longest serving chief executive and the Scottish Rugby Board’s decision to extend the contract was unanimous.

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“To know there was unanimous support on the Board to extend my role for a further 18-months was a key factor in the decision to accept their offer to continue in post,” said Dodson.

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“I know how hard all our people work to deliver rugby across Scotland and on the international stage and I remain fully committed to leading them through what is likely to be a challenging and unpredictable period.”

Dodson was appointed in September 2011 following a recruitment process that was led by the then Scottish Rugby chairman Sir Moir Lockhead and president Ian McLauchlan. He joined the SRU from Guardian Media Group and took over from interim boss Jock Millican who had replaced Gordon McKie in June 2011.

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The Scotland men’s team were ranked seventh in the world when Dodson was appointed and are now back in seventh spot, having climbed as high as fifth after the 2017 autumn Tests.

He has steered the union through arguably its most challenging period as the global pandemic shut the game down below elite level and kept supporters away for the entirety of the 2020-21 season.

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The subsequent massive drop in income was offset by £20 million of Scottish Government funding which came in the form of a £15m grant and £5m low interest loan, a welcome injection which raised some eyebrows across other sports, notably football.

If that was a feather in the cap for Dodson and his then No 2 Dominic McKay then so too was last year’s deal with CVC Capital Partners which saw the private equity firm invest up to £365m for a 1/7th share in Six Nations Rugby. Dodson was involved in the negotiations which saw the six unions benefit on a sliding scale, with Scotland receiving £44.5m over five years.

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His reign has spanned three men’s Rugby World Cups and four men’s national head coaches.

Scotland failed to qualify from the group stage in 2011 and 2019 but reached the quarter-finals in 2015 and were seconds away from beating Australia for a place in the semis.

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Andy Robinson was national coach when Dodson took over but left the following year after the shock home defeat by Tonga. Scott Johnson had a long, largely unremarkable spell as interim boss after Robinson before the appointment of Vern Cotter in 2014.

Cotter endured a difficult start - which included a Six Nations whitewash - but built a tough, exciting squad which performed impressively at the 2015 World Cup.

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Dodson announced the appointment of Gregor Townsend as national head coach in August 2016 following his successful spell in charge of Glasgow Warriors and Townsend took over from Cotter the following summer.

The team underperformed at the 2019 World Cup in Japan but have made notable progress in the Six Nations, achieving three wins in the championship in 2018, 2020 and 2021, which remains the high-water mark for Scotland since the competition was expanded in 2000.

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The progress was somewhat stunted this year when Scotland beat England and Italy and lost their other three matches but Townsend retains Dodson’s support. He is the longest-serving Scotland coach of the professional era and is contracted until next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The Scotland women’s team have qualified for the World Cup under the stewardship of Bryan Easson for the first time in 12 years and will compete in New Zealand in the autumn bolstered by the recent announcement that the squad will turn professional after the tournament.

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The SRU announced last week that full-time contracts would be given to a minimum of 30 internationals and two semi-pros teams would be created as part of a new strategy devised by Gemma Fay in what is a potentially game-changing move for the women’s and girls’ game.

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On the debit side, Dodson has come under fire over his remuneration after it was revealed in January 2020 that he had been paid £933,000 - a rise of £455,000 from the previous year.

The Keith Russell affair was also damaging, with the SRU’s former director of domestic rugby and father of Scotland stand-off Finn winning an unfair dismissal case against the governing body. Russell was awarded substantial compensation and damages in a judgement that is thought to have cost the SRU a six-figure sum.

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Dodson survived that and retains the support of the board. A change to the SRU’s structure is underway which is designed to make the governing body more accountable and will go before the union’s agm in August.

John Jeffrey, chairman of the Scottish Rugby Board, said retaining Dodson made sense.

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“Mark’s track record leading Scottish Rugby speaks for itself and as we enter what is likely to be a period of significant change and some uncertainty the Board unanimously agreed to ask him to continue for an additional 18-months,” said Jeffrey.

“The global picture in rugby invariably shapes what we can do locally in Scotland so, again, we felt it was right to have Mark in post, with his international experience at this point in the world game too.”

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SRU president Ian Barr said: “We are entering a key period in the history of Scottish Rugby as our governance proposals are developed and new bodies are created to deliver.

“It is vital Scottish Rugby continues to be successful on and off the pitch and it was obvious that Mark’s experience would be hugely beneficial to help us achieve this, as the new governance structures bed in.”

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Vice-president Colin Rigby said: “I believe it is the right move to extend his tenure to allow Scottish Rugby to work through the coming years with business continuity.”

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