Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


SRU Chief Dodson To Stick Around

Scott Johnson, Vern Cotter, Mark Dodson - pic © Scottish Rugby/SNS
Scott Johnson, Vern Cotter, Mark Dodson - pic © Scottish Rugby/SNS

It should perhaps come as no surprise that SRU Chief Executive Mark Dodson’s contract has been extended. However the timing appears to be very odd.

The supremo has been awarded a new 5 year contract which will take him through to the next world cup in 2019 and the SRU have pointed to several areas of success under Dodson’s reign ;

  • the continued financial growth through investment most notably from BT, but also from RBS and Macron
  • the strengthening of Glasgow and Edinburgh as professional rugby teams and the generation of stronger playing depth for the national side
  • the recruitment of Vern Cotter from Clermont Auvergne
  • the creation of the BT Rugby Academies
  • the establishment of the Club Sustainability Fund earmarking£1.6m for club development over 4 years

These achievements are positive, and at long last a better infrastructure to support player development is emerging. However until this translates into on-field success at a national level, it is difficult to understand why Dodson deserves this massive pat on the back.

Of course, Glasgow won the Pro 12 last season and the financial investment from BT is significant thereby allowing investment in the academy structure. But as yet there is limited evidence of Dodson’s work resulting in progress at international level, and this was one of his original stated aims.

Dodson was appointed to the post in 2011 and since then Scotland have dropped in the world rankings. Player numbers have failed to move forward at grass root levels to support the amateur and professional development of the game. We now have no representation in the British & Irish Cup, no longer have the guarantee of Glasgow and Edinburgh both appearing in Europe’s premier cup competition, and we have lost our place in hosting the World 7s Series Tournament with our Sevens team barely surviving a funding cut.  Under his tenure, the national team have twice picked up the wooden spoon (2012 & 2015) and staggeringly have only won 3 out of their last 20 Six Nations games.

We are now less than three weeks away from the 2015 World Cup. A competition that Dodson famously plans to win as part of the SR strategic objectives!

With Vern Cotter also renewing his contract just before the best opportunity to pass judgement on his talents, surely, post-World Cup would be the best time to assess just how much progress really has been made?


13 Responses

  1. You’re right, the timing is inappropriate.

    That said, I have no idea how these extensions are decided on or who makes the decisions. The inner workings of the SRU have always been opaque. It isn’t exactly a democratic organisation.
    If Dodson is the CE, one would hope he is independant of the offer to extend his own contract.

    After the dust has settled on the world cup would be more ‘seemly’ time to make those kind of decisions, and they must have known that this kind of announcement would raise some eyebrows.

    At least it isn’t the 7 year contract given to the English coach Lancaster, which caused such a furore when it happened.
    It only seems to ensure he has a huge pay and is difficult to get rid of if things disintegrate.

  2. When this first broke I had a wee chuckle to myself, regarding ‘the goal’ and the timing of this announcement. I think the article does a good job of highlighting some of the positives and the negatives. In my mind the positives outweigh the negatives. There is still much work to be done, but whilst things are on an upward curve, those in charge should be given an opportunity to finish their work. Of course there’s no harm in pointing out the work that still needs to be done. However, we should recognise positives too. I think you could possibly add attendances to the positives. We have had largely gash results (at least in the 6 Nations) yet the punters keep coming. Record gate for a summer test last weekend as an example. This is either due to a sense of hope and belief in the current squad, or good marketing. Most likely a combination of both.

    I don’t think that the SRU (or any of the other Unions) had the power to overcome the English or French in the ERC negotiations. We could have pulled out in principle, but we would have suffered the most, relatively. A cup consisting of only English and French clubs would be much the crapper, but still lucrative for those concerned. Having to qualify may ultimately give us two stronger club sides.

    I hope things do get sorted with the sevens. Having at one point debated whether a 7s team was something of a luxury given the state of play, I had not appreciated how much of the tour costs were covered by the Series (flights and accommodation I think. It now seems a good value way of developing players at a high level, and it would also seem totally backward to be pulling out of the arm of the sport which is expanding in popularity at the greatest rate globally. Not to mention the fact that we were getting some of our best ever results.

    As for the international results; I don’t think we should be looking at short political timescale tenures. It takes years to sort out the development system and improve the linking structures within the game. There is still much to be done here, but things seem to be moving in the right direction. Don’t expect it to improve our results in the next 6 Nations though. Once a better flow of players is in place it takes time (years) for the talented ones to develop and get the experience required to be competitive at test level. I think for the first time in a while we actually have a very good first 15. If we name it 1 – 15 I don’t see any real weaknesses. That’s about 4 or 5 players better than the last 10 years I reckon. We also have a bit of depth in some areas, so that we can actually cope with a handful (though not many more, and about none in the front row) of injuries through the team. This is partly due to a crop of excellent young talent, most of whom have come through the EDP system, but this is shored up by a small number of quality project players and a few kilted Kiwis. Sean Lineen’s Scottish Granny Snatcher role has contributed to that and, whilst it may seem cynical, it has been a pragmatic approach to filling the gaps. The challenge is to build the layers beneath that first team and I hope that is where we are headed. In 8 years time when Hogg, Gray, Bennett and Russell are thinking about whether the 2023 RWC will be their last, we want to be having keyboard wars about whether it’s worth keeping their experienced heads in over the three or four young pretenders that have come through in that time.

    The other big thing is Edinburgh. It’s not an easy solution, but something needs to be done. I’m an Edinburgh fan, but went to Scotstoun with a few of my Weej ticket holder friends last season and came back feeling a bit green.

    However, I do feel that those outstanding issues (as well as the requirement for a 3rd pro team) are recognised and taken seriously by Dodson. Clearly there aren’t easy answers, but I do have some confidence that he may actually be someone that can make decent progress in a realistic and financially practical way. He is not from the old school elite, and he has improved things noticeably on all fronts (from finances to engaging the fans) when compared to the previous regime.

  3. We all have absolutely nothing to worry about. Mark Dodson claimed that Scotaland are going to win the WC. So just relax, put your feet up and think of Scotland.

    Does this remind you of Ally’s army in 1978?- a victory parade at Hampden park before the tournament had actually began. Just look at what happenend then.

    Enough said but I hope you get the point I’m trying to make.

  4. I guess the problem with asessing his perfomance is that it will take years for the BT funding youth development etc to bear any fruit- probably 3-4 year minimum. That makes it difficult to assess the perfomance of Dodson even though he makes crazy remarks about Scotland winning the WC- what drug was he taking when he made that sprediction?

    The biggest problem I have is that he has not considered the establishment of more pro teams- this is essential in my opinion if Scotland are to make a serious impact in future 6 nation and WC competionions. I have read so many hard luck stories about talented players in their late teens/early 20’s who cannot progress their careers because of lack of opportunity at the pro level. Developing youth talent is great but you also need to provide a logical step to the pro scene. If not then that talent will dry up after the age of 18 and we will be left with having to field project players in our national team. There is some evidence of this happening as I write. He needs to recognise this and, if he does not, then he needs to go.

    1. He has considered the establishment of more pro teams, and he does recognise the requirement to provide better links to the pro scene. He has explicitly discussed that and has taken action with the latter. The former is really about numbers. Finances and practicalities.

    2. It is exceptionally tedious that some fans still bang on about Dodson’s ‘prediction’ that Scotland would win the world cup. He never made any such prediction, he made Scotland’s four year strategic goal to win the world cup and said that if they achieved all they set out to do there was no reason Scotland couldn’t do it. That doesn’t mean he expected Scotland to win. I don’t think there have been any major flaws in the SRUs strategy over the last four years; it has been night and day compared to the previous regime and Scotland looks like it might actually be putting in place a structure that will allow rugby to survive in the professional era. Honestly, if Scotland got knocked out in the group stages would that justify getting rid of him? What would that achieve?

  5. FF- its OK to have big deams about Scotland winning the world cup (he did make this predication but I dont have a problem with aiming high as lomg as the goals are realistic) and I think most fans accept that he has a difficult job. With such a poor pool of players he faces a near impossible task of maintaining parity with other 6 nation teams, never mind SA, OZ and NZ. Bringing in VC as coach was a great move on his part but I have issues with the way in which the BT cash has been spent and that he has been on the slow side to change things and react. I dont want to go over the age old argument about more pro teams but that is the only way that our national team has a hope in h.ll of wining the 6 nations or reaching the latter stages of the WC in the future. Our national team is now in a reasonable state but all that woould have to happen is for us to pick up 2 or 3 injuries (e.g. to key players such as Hogg, Strauss, Hardie) and we would be back to square one and playing to the standard we did in the last 6 nations tournament. I would have thought that the BT money coould have been used for the purpose of establish another pro team but it has not. In fact I dont really know where it has been spent, though I have my suspicions.
    On a positive note, he has adressed the problem of development at grass routes though I still think that we have to do more. It will be 5 years of more before we can tell whether his efforts at youth development have made any difference to the perfomance of the national squad.

    My own feeling is that Rome was not built in a day and he should be given another 3-5 years to prove his worth. If he does not then he needs to go.

    1. No he didn’t. I will happily concede I am wrong if you can find one quote where he predicts we will win the world cup.

      What he actually said at the time was: “The goals we’ve set reflect our ambition for the game in Scotland…With unity, and support from the whole nation, there is no reason we can’t achieve those goals.”

      Then in 2014 – “Of course it’s the target or else we wouldn’t have stated it in the first place…We realise many have been saying it’s an insane target, but we were making a call to people in Scotland to realise that they had to raise their sights.”

      Someone involved in professional sport saying our target is to win the world cup and saying there is no reason we can’t win the world cup is not a prediction.

      The only way our national team has a hope of being competitive in the future is if we invest in youth and grass roots rugby to bring more players into the sport, create a more competitive environment for our elite youth players and develop pathways through to professional rugby. BT money has been invested into establishing four youth academies, creating a club development fund, reforming the school and youth structure, paying down some of the SRU’s debt, and ensuring Glasgow and Edinburgh are funded to be competitive in domestic rugby. There simply is not the money to also run a third pro-team. You might disagree with some of the changes introduced by the SRU under Dodson but there is no doubt he is focusing on the rights issues and backing it up with cash.

      1. For my sins I’m a Scottish rugby and football supporter. The SRU are doing a far far far better job than their footballing counterparts I can tell you that much!

      2. Well said but i dont think Neil wants to hear what you’ve got to say. I personally feel the SRU have invested the BT money very wisely with a view to the future. If the Euro cup can get it arse in gear and start generating the corporate money it claimed it would, in five years time, the SRU might be able to invest that money plus the increases in other revenue (Pro 12, six nations, RWC, etc) into a third pro side but only time will tell.

  6. FF- investing in the youth set up is commendable as, for many years, Scotland has lagged behing other 6 nation teams at U21, U20, U18 and U16 levels, particularly when compared with Wales, England, Ireland and France. I won’t even mention the SH teams in this regard as I suspect they would tank our poor youth teams (probably by 70 points or more).
    So what then happens to the talented youth players assuming we end up with a glut of good ones within the next 5-10 years. I’m sure some will make into our two now very well established pro teams, but they may find that difficult as they will be competing for a first team place against foriegn nationals who may not be the best in the world but have experience on their side and a name that conjures up greatness (whether it is justified or not). So probably 15% of the talented youngsters will make to to our pro teams and I’m sure that one or two- perhaps about 5%- will end up playing for top teams elsewhere in Europe. But what happens to the remaining 80%?

    The asnswer is that they turn out for Gala or Boroughmuir or the Reading B team for a few years and, though they may be playing well, they never get the opportunity to compete at a higher level and/or receive the coaching to develop their skills. So they end up staying where they are and playing amature or semi-pro rugby at best. A significant number of the talented youngsters, perhaps as many as 50% will just get dissalusioned by the game and set-up. They will realise that there is very little, if any, chance of progressing their careers in rugby union and will take a new career path- and who could really blame them! Some will end up being top stars in other sports such as football but most will probably end up in a completely different non-sports related career.

    That prospect has got to be depressing and thats exactly why we need two things- a good youth structure and more pro teams. Why cant yoiu see that both are necessary in order to create a winning formula in the long term.

  7. I feel their is nothing wrong with another 5 years to really get his objectives across he has said that a third pro teams is a possibility if the funds are right and the timing. The academies will take years maybe 10 before any real fruit is born so that’s a waiting game but I do feel the sru and dodson are trying to keep things sustainable. It’s only last couple years I have shown any interest in pro and domestic game but from my outside looking in I think we as a nation are where we meant to be for the population player number and gemerald interest in the game. Pro teams are performing well sometimes with the b team and the national team had pulled off great results like south Africa Australia and Argentina tour. Admittedly we need to do better in 6n however 3 games were less than seven points. Using the pro 12 scoring system I believe we would not of had wooden spoon. Dodson is not responsible for the rankings in my opinion we are never really looking at top 6 so anywhere between 7-10 is reasonable. I hope the fans give him the five years and see just how much progress has hopefully been made and debate then

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