When Mark Dodson and Rob Flockhart sat down to meet journalists here yesterday, news that Scottish Rugby is to hold a review into the findings of the Keith Russell tribunal had just broken.
That announcement, made jointly by the SRU’s Board and Council, was the first time anyone within Scottish Rugby had commented in detail since the finding that Russell was unfairly dismissed was made public a week ago.
As president of the governing body, Flockhart was keen to insist that the Board and Council were scrupulous in holding Dodson, the chief executive, to account. This contradicts one of the key claims by Russell, the former director of domestic rugby, that Dodson wanted to sideline the Council in particular. “I really do not understand the suggestion that Council and Board do not have an oversight situation,” Flockhart said.
“We have very, very robust quarterly meetings where the Council review both the executive and the Board. I’ve sat on the Board. There are fairly strong non-executive directors on the board who do indeed question the executive at all times.
“I stand behind what Mark has done up to date, subject to this review of the tribunal. Mark and I have had some very serious discussions if not disagreements over the last two years. He has won some, I’ve won some, and some we’ve agreed to find a way to work through. The Board scrutinises him, Council scrutinises him, he is forceful, he makes his points strongly.”
Russell and others, however, have suggested that Dodson makes his points too strongly at times, and that a culture exists within the Union whereby critics are silenced, and some departing employees are coerced into signing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). The very nature of such agreements means the names of signatories are not made public, but both Dodson and Flockhart went further by declining to mention the number of signatories.
“Those are employment matters and we don’t comment on those,” Dodson said. “In a business of this size and complexity you have to have a human resources response to all kind of situations.
“We never comment on individual employment matters. We never do that. We’re unable to – we choose not to comment. Those are the things that will be looked at by the review, and they’ll come back.”
Flockhart backed up that stance, saying: “Out of respect for employees, you cannot make any sort of statement in those circumstances. I’m absolutely confident it will be part of the review situation.”
Asked if he was comfortable with the impression that the SRU was secretive, Flockhart added: “I am not comfortable at all. I wouldn’t stand... Twice I have had situations with previous groups at Murrayfield which have behaved completely unacceptably in my view. I would like you to think that I stood up to them and change happened.”
The review, to be led by SRU non-executive director Lesley Thompson, will be able to examine the use of NDAs and any other practices deemed relevant to the Russell case. Flockhart declined to give a precise timescale for completion of the report, and it remains to be seen whether all of it will be published or if parts will be redacted on the grounds of employee confidentiality.
“The timescale – it is going to take as long as it takes,” he said. “There are time constraints obviously given our board meeting next month and an annual general meeting [in August]. There is no intention under any circumstances to hurry this through just to get a report out. Once that comes to hand, we will have to discover what the terms of that report are and how much can be put out to the public.”