This year marks seven years since the launch of our podcast and after much reflection I’ve decided to take a step back from the podcast and our social media channels at the end of this month. I’ll still make the odd guest appearance and remain an ardent supporter of Scottish rugby but the time has come to hand the reins over to others.
I’m proud of the issues we’ve covered over the years particularly around diversity in rugby.
I’m delighted to see the women’s program start to flourish but it’s still disheartening to see a player of Chloe Rollie’s ability having to pitch for a boot sponsor on social media.
There is still a lot of work to be done around diversity elsewhere in Scottish rugby. Pathways appear skewed towards favouring white middle and upper class players and rugby still lags way behind other sports in terms of popularity outside rugby’s heartlands. All this despite the improved performances of the international side. The “if you build it they will come” approach hasn’t worked. More needs to be done to attract a broader section of Scottish society to the sport.
The decision to stop trans women from participating in women’s rugby was one of the crulest decisions the SRU has ever made. It affected less than 10 people and there was little to no call for such a decision within Scottish rugby. The ban was driven by World Rugby’s decision to recommend a ban on transgender women which itself was based on questionable scientific opinion, the philosophical beliefs of people with little or no connection to rugby and lawyers overly concerned with fanciful risks rather than the people the decision affects.
There is a strong LGBTQ+ community in Scottish rugby and the decision to ban transgender women from participating has no doubt negatively impacted the hard work of teams such as the Caledonian Thebans to make our sport more inclusive and welcoming.
When the ban was introduced the SRU committed to reviewing it on an annual basis. That review is due now and I hope it will be carried out fairly with the full involvement of those affected and those who can speak on their behalf. The RFU has acknowledged the “hurt” caused to the LGBTQ+ community as a result of its own ban and had committed to reviewing its policies. The least the SRU can do is to issue it’s own apology and I hope that the new SRU Chair John McGuigan will give this the attention it deserves.
I remain in awe of the people up and down the country that work tirelessly and most often on a voluntary basis to run our clubs. They are the lifeblood of the sport in Scotland and it is they, not academies or performance directors who will produce our next generation of players and more importantly coaches, club administrators and fans.
When we started I wanted to create something like BBC Radio Scotland’s “Off The Ball” with plenty of irreverent humour that was (just about) suitable for a family audience. I think and hope that’s what we’ve achieved.
I’d like to thank all of our listeners, especially those who have stuck with us through the early episodes which at times resembled more of an art house experiment than rugby podcast in both content and sound quality.
For now I will sign off paraphrasing one of Scotland’s greatest players. Scottish Rugby is not the SRU. It is the people who turn up to run the bars and make the pies every weekend. It is the club administrators giving up evenings and family time to keep the lights on in the club house and make sure teams have fixtures to play. It is the coaches turning up on Sunday mornings in all weathers to run practice sessions for kids of all ages. It’s the referees giving up their weekends to drive miles from home to make sure fixtures go ahead. It’s the fans, not just those of Edinburgh and Glasgow, but those who stand on the side lines of wet pitches up and down the country cheering on their local team and keeping their clubs alive. It is not governance structures and hollow strategic objectives. It is the people.
I will not rest until I find out what happened to the original Flinty McStag.