EVER-swelling coffers and success on the pitch – at pro-team level at least – will be the central narrative put forward to member clubs at this morning’s annual general meeting of the Scottish Rugby Union at BT Murrayfield.
As the riches continue to roll in from the lucrative sponsorship deal struck with BT last year, which included naming rights for the national stadium, the Annual Report will show a record £44.2 million turnover, achieved through £513,000 income growth on a previous financial year which yielded £43.7m. Just five years ago the turnover was £33.6m.
We now have proof players and coaches can stay in Scotland and win silverwareMark Dodson
It is a far cry from the dark days of ten years ago when the organisation was creaking under the burden of a debt believed to be in excess of £25m.
By contrast, chief executive Mark Dodson will today report that the union’s average debt has now dropped below the £10m mark.
The health of the balance sheet over what the SRU still considers to have been “a challenging financial year” has led to significant investment in the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy system and greater support for the club game.
While, at the international level, a promising autumn Test series campaign gave way to a disappointing whitewash in the RBS Six Nations to stall momentum in World Cup year, history was made at pro-team level as Glasgow Warriors soared to a majestic Guinness Pro12 title win and Edinburgh reached the European Challenge Cup final.
The bitter pill of a Wooden Spoon was sweetened by the fact that ticket sales at BT Murrayfield broke the £10m barrier.
Dodson will herald Glasgow’s victory as a “breakthrough moment” and add: “This success is just the start of our journey. Importantly we now have proof that players and coaches can stay in Scotland and win silverware.
“We know we still have much to do and achieve but are looking forward positively to more competitive and entertaining rugby.
“While there have been some great moments on the pitch there has also been a lot of hard work in the background to make the game sustainable from the grassroots up.
“Nothing has given me more pleasure this year than rolling out the first round of funding awards from our £1.6m Club Sustainability Fund, made possible through our partnership with BT.”
SRU chairman Sir Moir Lockhead said: “Scottish Rugby continues to expand all areas of the game to ensure it is sustainable at every level. While our professional teams have made great strides on the field, the impact of last year’s BT sponsorship agreement has started to benefit clubs, schools and communities directly.
“We have had a very successful year as we continue to inspire Scotland through rugby to ensure young people enjoy the game.”
In addition to some minor housekeeping, such as references to the IRB in bye-laws being changed to reflect the global governing body’s new name World Rugby, today’s motions will include the proposal from the Governance Working Party to increase the terms of SRU president and vice-president from one to two years from 2016 onwards. There will also be a push, proposed by Hillhead-Jordanhill RFC, seconded by Stewart’s Melville FP, that there should be no competitive adult domestic rugby on the same day as a home Scotland fixture in the Six Nations, thus eliminating any “clash of loyalties”.
Glasgow Hawks, seconded by Cartha QP, have moved to direct the SRU’s Board and Council to delay the implementation of proposed changes to the structure of youth and schools competitions as presented by the union until a “full and proper consultation process” has been undertaken.
Ian Rankin’s presidency will come to an end today as his successor Ed Crozier of Cartha QP is ratified in the post. The election for a new vice-president will be a contest between Ian Barr of Lasswade and Boroughmuir’s Rob Flockhart.
Looking back at his year as president, Rankin said: “Over the course of the year I’ve genuinely sensed an air of positivity across the game and, most importantly, at club level which remains the foundation of our sport.
“Real progress is being made to take the sport forward, at every level, backed up with consistent support and investment, which rugby is uniquely placed at this time to do. Our strapline of ‘#AsOne’ really captures the spirit of pulling together which I am seeing now and I hope it continues well into the future.”