After undergoing the most extensive consultation in the history of Scottish sport, Scottish Rugby is planning to make major changes to create a new vision, leadership and winning culture for the game.

At its annual general meeting tonight Scottish Rugby’s member clubs are being presented by the Union’s chairman and chief executive with an interim update on the strategic review that Scottish Rugby embarked upon last January.

The suggested changes include an invitation to encourage bids from private investors for professional team franchises; a restructuring of the domestic game with a single Premier League, play-offs, Grand Final, two national leagues and new-look regional leagues; an emphasis on clubs being at the centres of their communities and the focus of development; upgrading the skills of our best players, coaches and referees and intensifying the preparation of our top rugby athletes; an opportunity to play more rugby in better weather; and the promotion of more fun-related rugby.

That review – including two open space events attended by hundreds of interested people and meetings with clubs, sponsors and media on both a collective and individual basis – facilitated by management consultants, Genesis and involving experts from business, sport, education and government, gave thousands of stakeholders the chance to debate their ideas to re-energise Scottish Rugby and create a dynamic future for the sport at all levels.

Tonight’s meeting is providing clubs with the results of the consultation and indications of the strategic direction rugby in Scotland can take. The strategic report is very much a work in progress at this stage, however after further detailed planning an appropriate four year strategic plan will be presented for approval at a special general meeting in the autumn.

‘The review has been thorough and conducted with absolute honesty and transparency. Scottish Rugby is not just a recurring loop of failure. There are positives but there are also serious problems which have to be addressed urgently. Change is not an option. It is the only choice,’ said chairman David Mackay.

Scottish Rugby Chief Executive Phil Anderton said: ‘We need to plan for success, not just expect it to happen. If you don’t know where you’re going you won’t know how to get there. We need to aim high and be radical, planning where we want to get to, not where we can get to.

‘Therefore, Scottish Rugby’s long-term vision is to win cross-border competitions in which our representative sides compete and to grow rugby faster than any other sport in Scotland with increased participation and where rugby is seen as a dynamic, integrated, exciting sport by all sections of the community.’

Specific bold targets for the next four years are for:

  • the national team to reach the semi-finals of the RWC in 2007
  • the national team to be in the top two of the RBS 6 Nations Championship by 2006 and winning by 2008
  • a Scottish professional team to win the Celtic League by 2008 and one Scottish professional team to reach the last eight of the Heineken Cup every year
  • a significant increase in the numbers playing competitive adult rugby with particular emphasis on young people being converted into the full-contact game
  • Scottish Rugby to be trading profitably every year from 05/06
  • Scottish Rugby to have halved its overdraft by 2008
  • Scottish Rugby to be respected as a peak-performing organisation
  • The key issues facing rugby in Scotland at the moment have been identified as:

    1 Our national team are ranked currently ninth in the world and have slipped in recent years. Climbing the rankings again becomes so much harder unless we broaden the base of players. Independent research has shown that interest in rugby in Scotland has grown and, thanks to the efforts of Development Officers, teachers and volunteers, there are record numbers of youngsters being introduced to the game – yet participation in the full-contact game, particularly with young adults, is not great.

    2 The professional game is not working in Scotland and the relationship between the clubs and the professional game is still too fractious.

    3 On performance, the fitness levels, skills and mental mindset of top Scottish players have not been developed to the standard they need to be to enable us to move forward at elite level.

    4 The declining number of teenagers coupled with an alarming increase in obesity and social misbehaviour – issues that challenge all sports.

    5 Our self-generated income has grown significantly – we’re now on par with some of the leading nations – but our overall financial performance is unsustainable because we have been spending above our means

    6 The lack of a performance culture within the SRU and the perception that communication from the Union is one-way and inconsistent

    7 The clubs feel disengaged from the SRU and are not core to the development of the game.

    What actions does Scottish Rugby propose to take?

    As part of our performance strategy we must get our elite teams winning. The preparation of players and teams must be enhanced. We need to improve the skills of our youngsters and must up-skill our coaches. We need to look at playing our rugby in better weather to foster skills. We want to have our best young talent hot-housed so that our best players are ready for the rigours, physical and mental, of the professional and international arena. The role of sevens should be enhanced as it presents an opportunity to accelerate the skills of our players.

    In professional rugby we wish to decrease control from the SRU. We will continue to invest in the pro-teams but at a lower level. We are going to encourage bids from private investors, individuals or clubs for franchises in a plan to strengthen the pro-teams to enable them to compete and win consistently. Pro-teams need not necessarily be based in existing district concepts with the regional limitations that this brings. Ideally, the franchises should be located in areas capable of attracting support – both through the turnstiles and commercially – including London.

    On the domestic front we must be realistic in our determination to grow the game. Our limited resources should be applied to building on areas of strength and targeting areas of opportunities and not spreading our activities too thinly. The focus should change from mini-rugby to the importance of involvement and retention at pre-teen and teenager levels. Here the role of Development Officers will be refined so that development resources are integral to the recruitment and retention of youngsters through linkage to schools and clubs and accountable to clubs.

    Our domestic club competition must be attractive to players, volunteers and spectators alike. Too much of it just now is blighted by poor weather and excessive and costly travel. We want to introduce a single premiership with a smaller number of teams to raise the quality. Below that there would be two national leagues and then regional leagues, with faster opportunities for any club to reach the top tier. The timing of such competitions would be determined by careful research to see whether there are opportunities to grow the game by playing at different times of the year, particularly during better weather.

    Scottish Rugby currently spends some £¾ million annually on its districts set-up and competition structure. Is that money well-spent or are there other ways in which greater participation and a broader audience could be attracted?

    Scottish Rugby believes in an all-inclusive approach. Hence we seek integration with the women’s game and we wish to work closely with sportscotland and the Scottish Executive to help meet all our objectives for a healthier, fitter country through wider participation in sport generally.

    On finance we will look to generate capital receipts from some of our non-strategic assets and to be trading profitably from 2005/06.

    We believe that investment in clubs should be targeted carefully and that those clubs who deliver against the strategies that we all agree upon will be incentivised to meet collective goals. We also wish to link the profitability of the SRU to monies going out to clubs.

    Scottish Rugby will also look to cut further areas of expenditure that are non-strategic, whilst incentivising and encouraging above-par performance.

    Within Scottish Rugby’s staff we propose to review all the jobs and ask if these jobs fulfil the function that we need. We will encourage an accountable organisation where people are set very clear goals and where communication is a two-way process. Those who deliver against those targets will be rewarded. Those who don’t will need to look elsewhere for employment.

    Alistair Gray, managing director of Genesis, said: ‘Scottish Rugby has demonstrated integrity and courage by undertaking this open and participative strategic review. We are confident there will be strong ownership of the strategic direction being proposed and the implications for change.

    ‘Implementation is always the hard part, but given the passion and enthusiasm in Scottish Rugby, we are optimistic real progress can be made to securing a step-change in the performance of the sport on and off the field.’

    Phil Anderton added: ‘I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this huge consultation and for the passion with which they have put forward their ideas.

    ‘We all want Scotland to be a successful rugby nation where we are proud of the performances of our representative teams and rugby is at the heart of our communities.

    ‘The route we are currently navigating is not going to get us there consistently so we need to change course.

    ‘It is key that we have a winning culture both in terms of the Scottish team’s performance, increasing playing numbers and ensuring there is successful performance within the SRU.

    ‘To deliver all we want to achieve, we are going to have to make some hard choices and discard ideas that may have been cherished in the past in order to become more effective and efficient as both the governing body of rugby in Scotland and a business.

    ‘We are setting out a clear vision. We look to our stakeholders to endorse it so by working together we can deliver a consistent level of success that will take Scottish Rugby to previously uncharted heights. I am confident that with that unity of purpose Scottish Rugby can deliver.’

    For further information please contact

    Graham Law
    0131 346 5164 or 07764 178940

    Alistair Gray
    07785 331618