Today is the SRU AGM and some of the major talking points were revealed via press release yesterday. There are many positives amongst the spin and figures –chiefly the information on crowd figures and the increased amounts of squad investment –however, a lot of attention may fall on the hyper ambitious remit set forth by the leadership group of Mark Dodson, Ian McLauchlan and Sir Moir Lockhead.
They have devised strategic targets that are simply put as: ‘securing a 6 Nations Grand Slam by 2016 and winning the Rugby World Cup.’
Before positives and targets are discussed at the AGM there will be a changing of the guard. Dodson and Lockhead will, of course, retain their positions, but McLauchlan is to step down as president and replaced by 15-times capped scrum-half Alan Lawson, father of Rory Lawson.
MCLauchlan will then step onto the board alongside another wealthy figures-man in Colin Grassie, the current UK CEO of Deutsche Bank. Gordon Bulloch and Donald Emslie step down.
As well as this Dodson will represent the SRU, alongside John Jeffrey, on the IRB panel, with Jeffrey and loyal SRU servant Colin Thomson (Head of Community rugby) jointly taking over 6 Nations Committee duties.
What this group will then be representing is last year’s finances, and their proposals.
Summarised in the release, it is proudly proclaimed that the new leadership “has achieved a surplus of £1.6m with turnover increasing by £3.1m over the previous year. Additional hospitality, event and income from the professional clubs along with IRB grant income in a Rugby World Cup year all contributing. These incomes offset lower revenues from ticketing and broadcasting, which were reduced by a differing home international match schedule.
“Direct club support and related development expenditure for 2011/12 was £1.9m, an increase of 5% on the previous year. This includes jointly funded development officers; the payment of accident insurance premiums; travel support and match official’s expenses for club games.”
What is said here is that participation money from the RWC has inflated figures slightly, but that there has been a surplus of about £1.6m. What is also said is that fewer home games in the 6 Nations impacted here. In 2013, then, there will be the double edged sword of having to speculate more with an increase in Murrayfield fixtures, but the Union may earn more as well.
What is interesting is the 5% increase in ‘club support and related development’. To the SRU’s credit, a study of the 5-year financial summary in the Annual Report shows an increase in expenditure across the board.
However, it is the vagueness of terms that is always striking. The expenditure on International and Professional rugby dwarfs the combined totals of Community and Performance rugby and club support and development. Almost three times as much money goes to the two pro sides and full teams as goes to all clubs, schools, community projects and coach development. All of these things are tied up under non-specific headings.
Obviously professional and international rugby is a huge undertaking. Mammoth. Yet, for a group talking of winning World Cups from a position of 9th in the world, maybe a lot more money could go in to developing youngsters or improving coaching? At the very least a promoted figure like Colin Thomson should be heard from more, publicly, on issues of youth investment, rather than only appearing when an age-grade side has won or an initiative experiences a boon.
There is no time limit on winning that World Cup, so some of these kids are going to have to step up.
Of course it must be reiterated that improvements are happening. Glasgow and Edinburgh have had fairly impressive seasons and more finance can strengthen their positions and make them more competitive. There are also promises that tough challenges will continue to be set for international coaches. Such targets must continue to be made available to the Scottish fan base –who are more educated about the game than they receive credit for –so that everyone in the country knows what is expected and what kind of pressures the team and coaches are under.
Finally, the fans will appreciate efforts to reach them and improve match day treatment the most. Gates are up with the pro sides, partly due to an upturn ion fortunes. Sir Moir only talks of improving the experience in Murrayfield (perhaps a typical EH12 oversight), but leaps at Scotstoun and community visits from the professional players must also be commended. The packages seem better, and they are no longer shy about getting out there and telling people about that.
Much more will come out of today’s AGM, and hopefully some cutting questions are asked so that no one sits on their laurels or entertains delusions of success, but the whole point is to move forward.
There are lofty targets to meet if Scotland are to keep on inching forward.