SRU chief executive Mark Dodson welcomed the backing of clubs for the union’s new youth and schools policy after a motion to delay was not carried at Saturday’s annual general meeting.
The topic was the only contentious aspect of a smooth AGM, which saw an increased attendance of 189 voting delegates at BT Murrayfield following two years at Heriot-Watt University’s Riccarton campus.
Glasgow Hawks proposed a motion, seconded by Cartha Queens Park, to delay the implementation of the new structure, which sees 11 youth and schools conferences and a Borders inter-town competition, until a full consultation process is undertaken. The bone of contention for some clubs is that for part of the season players must choose to register with club or school, but not both. Hawks, who have opted out of the system, say “75 per cent to 80 per cent” of their junior playing pool would face a conflict.
Former Scotland head coach Frank Hadden, who has been working behind the scenes to get the new structure in place, urged the hall to support the SRU policy and, while the motion to delay received some support, it was well beaten by a show of hands.
The new conferences will now go ahead, with the first round of fixtures set for the end of the month, and after the meeting Dodson said: “As far as we’re concerned a lot of work went into that paper. We think it’s a big step forward for rugby in this country at that level. We’ve been working on it for a long time.
“Hawks and Cartha had every right to put that motion forward and discuss it here, we are a democracy. And I think you saw democracy in action.
“There was a long debate on both sides and the room voted and we’re happy because it endorsed what the Board and Council had recommended.
“We can now push on with one of the most important initiatives we’ve had in Scottish rugby over the last generation.”
Dodson insisted that the policy was not set in stone and the union was willing to be flexible and open to adapting as the new system rolls out.
“There has been a huge amount of complex negotiation that’s taken place through this process,” said the 55-year-old Mancunian. “We’re not going to just implement something like this without having a process where we’ll carry on talking to clubs and tweaking as we go along.
“There are going to be measurements and conversations with clubs, especially the ones finding this difficult as an ongoing process.”
There was a moment of levity among the serious business on Saturday morning when Ian Rankin overestimated his powers as outgoing president and inadvertently ‘knighted’ his chief executive, calling him “Sir Mark Dodson” when introducing the top table.
SRU chairman Sir Moir Lockhead, whose investiture does come with royal approval, joked during his remarks: “When we win the World Cup I’m sure Mark will be knighted.”
That was a reference to Dodson’s much-publicised aim to win this year’s World Cup laid out in the four-year plan of 2012 and that came up again when the chief executive spoke to the press after the meeting.
“I knew that would come up,” he said with a laugh. “I will state, for the record, that our aim is still to win the World Cup and it should be to win it in 2015. Every time we take the field we want to win. We shouldn’t have any other aim.”
Now in the final quarter of that four-year plan, Dodson added: “It’s a mixed report. We’ve overachieved in some of it and failed in other parts.”
Dodson’s “state of the union” address to the AGM highlighted the successes of Glasgow Warriors’ Guinness Pro12 title triumph and Edinburgh’s run to a European final as well as trumpeting the sound finances – a record turnover of £44.2 million and the average debt now below £10 million. The “unacceptable” Six Nations whitewash was acknowledged but Scotland head coach Vern Cotter, who was in attendance, was given a vote of confidence as the squad head into the World Cup. Dodson also revealed an intention to bid to host the 2021 Women’s World Cup.
Other business saw the terms of president and vice-president increased from one to two years from 2016, with Ed Crozier ratified as the new president, succeeding Rankin.
A motion to prevent any competitive adult fixtures being played on the same day as a home Scotland Six Nations fixture, unless both clubs agree, was carried.
Rob Flockhart of Boroughmuir was elected vice-president, edging out Ian Barr of Lasswade by 96 votes to 92.