Ian Rankin, the new Scottish Rugby vice-president, stood on a platform of gaining greater respect for the clubs and it took the former Edinburgh Wanderers captain and ex-Capital professional coach a matter of minutes after Saturday’s annual general meeting to underline those credentials.
In a near unprecedented move, Rankin got the nod on the first ballot by polling more votes than rivals Archie Ferguson and Jock Millican combined.
With Rankin putting himself firmly on the line, that vote could be interpreted as revealing dissatisfaction at the way power has swung away from the rank and file with the bulk of finance and attention going to the professional outfits and national team.
But Rankin, while admitting “I put my head above the parapet because a lot of people wanted somebody closer to the clubs”, was also in conciliatory mood.
The recent Dundee High coach even played a straight bat to a question about his eventual presidency coinciding with a claim by chief executive Mark Dodson that Scotland aim to win the 2015 World Cup and whether he already had a valedictory prepared.
“No comment,” he said, before being more forthcoming on the role he sees for the traditional clubs.
“The club game is absolutely the foundation (but) in every sport the international game is the shop window.
“We are a small country which is a weakness in many ways but it is also a massive strength.
“We have to pull together and there are occasions when we go off in little tangents but communication has got to be open and honest.
“You maybe don’t have to agree with stuff as long as you know the process and the reason.”
That was clearly an appeal for more dialogue when players are required to switch between the professional and club game and Rankin is particularly bullish when it comes to calling for opportunities for club coaches at the top level.
In the past, his Premiership colleagues have been kept at arm’s length but the creation of a post at both Edinburgh and Glasgow for club mentors is a step forward and Rankin can be relied on to keep pressing.
“A large number of guys have applied for those roles which I am encouraged by because some have comfortable jobs and professional coaching can be a risky business.
“There is a recognition we have to bring on our own coaches.
“At a conference I was at in Rome a couple of years ago the six Scottish coaches were a lot better than those from countries with a far bigger playing base.
“We need to have the confidence and opportunity to bring through that next generation.”
Sitting alongside Rankin was new president Donald MacLeod whose involvement at top level was as a medical adviser but who has proved himself as an administrator with Selkirk.
“My heart is very much with the club game but I recognise we cannot survive without the professional and representative game. Murrayfield pulls the money in.
“I see three packages absolutely integrated.” MacLeod also called for an expansion of the club international series, something that Rankin rapidly endorsed as a former Scottish clubs’ team manager.
Earlier, a rather subdued two-and-a-quarter hour annual meeting at Heriot-Watt University – could it be delegates had their minds on the Lions Test being played simultaneously? – roused itself only to vote through a return to a linear league structure which does away with two Championship divisions organised on geographical grounds from the season after next.
This was a triumph for the Haddington club whose representative, Keith Wallace, argued that the obtuse nature of those leagues made getting match sponsorship difficult.
A call to increase the size of national leagues from ten to 12 teams, also for revenue purposes, was also passed on the only card vote deemed necessary other than the election. By the time season 2014-15 gets underway the annual meeting could start to rotate around the country as Hillhead/Jordanhill’s Bernie Mitchell succeeded in persuading the hierarchy to look at such a move, seizing on the fact a precedent had been set by the switch to Heriot-Watt’s conference facility from Murrayfield, where the main function suite had allegedly been booked for an Indian wedding ceremony.
Otherwise, the top table appeared to have prepared the ground exceedingly well with advance notice given that the debt had fallen from £13.4 to £11.2m – the lowest for a decade – with a surplus of £900,000 against a record turnover of £39.3m.
“A few years ago we were really looking into an abyss,” said retiring president, Alan Lawson.
There were, too, assurances about increased playing numbers and Murrayfield attendances and in a rare sour note Edinburgh Rugby were described by Dodson as “under-performing”.
So far as the hunt for a new coach is concerned, Dodson told the meeting he would not be rushed.
“Edinburgh were unable to build on Heineken Cup success and tenth last league in the Rabo and 11th this year is not good enough.
“We will be announcing a new coaching team in due course but we need to find the best and not just someone who is available,” said Dodson.