Scottish rugby players warned after Aberdeen fiasco

SRU chief Mark Dodson reminds them of their responsibilities ahead of the sport’s return

Scottish Rugby Union chief executive Mark Dodson. Picture: Alan Harvey/SNS

Mark Dodson, the chief executive of the Scottish Rugby Union, has reminded players of their responsibilities as professionals as the governing body looks to offset losses of around £18 million this year.

Dodson recognises the severity of the situation in Aberdeen, where coronavirus cases are spiking and two Dons football players tested positive, with six others self-isolating, after a recent trip to the pub.

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That has led to Aberdeen’s Scottish Premiership encounter against St Johnstone being postponed, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accusing the players of putting the return of football at risk after a “clear breach” of protocols.

And the matter has sharpened minds ahead of rugby’s return in Scotland, where Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh are set to resume their Guinness Pro14 campaigns with two derbies at BT Murrayfield on August 22 and 28.

“We reminded our pro players (on Friday) morning of their responsibility,” Dodson said.

“We’re ready to resume but we’re very much keeping in mind the threat of Covid-19 and I think this is a clear reminder of the danger of Covid-19, not just in sport but to society as a whole, and we’re cognisant of that.

“When you see things that have happened over the last two or three weeks across the country, you are reminded that this is a societal issue and we have to remain governed by the medical advice that we’ve been given.”

Dodson is “hopeful” one of the Glasgow-Edinburgh matches will see some fans in attendance and rejected speculation that what has happened in Aberdeen may have been a setback to spectators coming back into stadiums.

He added: “I don’t think so. We’ve been working very closely and we’ve been unequivocal around the steps that we’re taking to make sure we’re as safe as possible as a sport can be in order to resume.

“Our message is clearly understood and is getting a very good hearing inside the Government.”

Latest estimates show the SRU is projected to lose £18m this year, according to Dodson, who admitted that figure could rise sharply if the public health crisis impacts the 2021 Six Nations, with Scotland set to host three games.

Dodson said: “The scenarios are moving all the time, that’s one of the problems we’ve got. We’ve got a good handle on what kind of shortfall we’re looking at and we’re looking at an £18m shortfall in our revenues this year.

“It’s a serious situation as far as we’re concerned and we’re taking all the appropriate steps to manage that.

“I would say £18m is at the more harsh end but it only needs the Six Nations to be cancelled and then we’re into a whole new scenario.”

The figure has not factored in crowds attending autumn internationals, with traditional Tests set to be replaced by a new eight-team tournament involving the Six Nations sides, plus Japan and Fiji.

Dodson said: “I’m pretty optimistic about that, there’s a good chance it will take place. We’ve had extensive negotiations, not only with the Six Nations [teams] but with Japan and Fiji.

“We think we’re close to being able to announce that.”

The finale of this year’s Six Nations will be held on 31 October, with Scotland playing their final match against Wales away – although the fixture will be held away from the Principality Stadium in Cardiff as it is being used as a temporary hospital.

Asked whether he had a preference for where the game is staged, Dodson added: “No, we’ll play anybody anywhere. You’re either good enough or you’re not good enough.”

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