The Scottish Rugby Union has agreed to donate £70,000 to Japan’s typhoon fund and “expressed its regret” over comments made by chief executive Mark Dodson during the recent Rugby World Cup.
Dodson infuriated the world governing body when he made a public plea for Scotland’s crucial Typhoon Hagibis-threatened closing pool match against Japan to be played, if at all possible, within what the SRU and legal advice thought was terms of the tournament’s participation agreement.
World Rugby reacted by issuing a “formal reprimand” and imposed a £70,000 fine for what it regarded as a matter which brought the game into “disrepute” and accused the Scots of being insensitive to the extent of the natural disaster which claimed almost 100 lives.
After bullish threats from the SRU to pursue the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne if needs be, a compromised back-down has been agreed. That being an expression of regret rather than apology, and a donation rather than acceptance of a fine.
World Rugby chairman and former Grand Slam-winning England captain Sir Bill Beaumont has reportedly been working behind the scenes to broker such a settlement which an SRU source described as “the end point” of the issue.
“World Rugby can confirm that the Scottish Rugby Union has expressed its regret and has confirmed it will not challenge World Rugby further on this matter,” read a statement from the global governing body yesterday morning. “The Scottish Rugby Union has agreed to pay a donation of £70,000 to World Rugby and the matter is now closed. There will be no further comment from either party.”
The SRU has stuck to that “no further comment” line but has clearly, in the past few weeks, been infuriated with the charge and the way the judgment from an “independent disputes committee”, with no right of appeal, was arrived at.
The Scotsman understands the position from Murrayfield was always a feeling that Dodson’s comments in Yokohama were sensitive to the situation unfolding in Japan at the time but also clear that there was scope for flexibility in terms of the tournament’s participation agreement in exceptional circumstances.
“This is the crux of the matter,” said Dodson at that press conference a month ago. “The first and most important issue is that we look after the safety of the general public. The second thing is for World Rugby to just simply state that the game has to be cancelled goes against the whole sporting integrity of the tournament.
“We’ve had consistent dialogue in the last three or four days around this with senior people at World Rugby, but World Rugby seem to be determined to stick to its plan that the match is either played on Sunday or indeed it is cancelled, and to have it cancelled and have our ability to progress from this group put at peril, we believe is absolutely unacceptable.”
World Rugby did not take that, nor the hint if not actual threat, of legal action implied in Dodson’s comments kindly and threw the book at the SRU in an unprecedented manner.
World Rugby said after the charge that Dodson’s comments, “suggested an unfair and disorganised treatment of all teams”, and merited a reprimand, a written apology and a £70,000 fine.
Then followed an extraordinary 23-page legal document to admonish the SRU chief for his words.
In the end, the Japan-Scotland match did take place in Yokohama on the day after Typhoon Hagibis swept through and the hosts won a thrilling contest 28-21 to send Gregor Townsend’s squad home early at the pool stage.
World Rugby’s disputes committee said in its ruling it had invited the SRU to make an apology and a donation to the typhoon fund but the SRU had “suggested alternative wording which included a mutual expression of regret from both parties, and no apology”
Both World Rugby and the SRU would publicly now like this to be the end of the matter but its implications are sure to rumble on.