IT would be dangerous to underestimate just how fraught Scottish Rugby’s financial position is as at the moment, and how severe the consequences of a few wrong turns could be.
News of the Scottish Government’s bail-out on 10th December was an immediate relief but ultimately a major humiliation for the sport.
When pressed on the apparent disparity between the money being made available by Holyrood to football (Scotland’s national game) and to rugby (a distant second), Joe FitzPatrick – Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing at the time – explained to the BBC last Monday night that:
“Football is getting £30m and there’s £20m to rugby, but the breakdown of that was all based on the advice I got in relation to how to make sure all of those clubs were sustained throughout the pandemic.”
The inference was clear. This ’emergency fund’ was required to keep the lights on at Murrayfield and Scotstoun. Scottish Rugby is being rewarded for failure.
But the critical question so far as the clubs are concerned is how much of this government support is going to filter down to the grassroots?
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Four days after the bail-out was announced, Scottish Rugby managed to produce audited accounts for financial year 2019-20 – five months late according to the organisation’s own bye-laws – having finally secured ‘going concern’ approval for the next 12 months from auditors PWC.
It is now clear that Scottish Rugby wasn’t ready for a World Cup year, never mind a pandemic.
“Ongoing trading operations were, as happens every fourth year, impacted by the RWC which reduced our income levels and increased our costs from what they might otherwise have been,” noted President Ian Barr and Chairman John Jeffrey in the introduction to the Annual Report.
But as General Counsel Robert Howat told us later on in the document: “The board reviews strategic priorities every year and during the year…