ALL who closely follow rugby union in Scotland will be aware that for many years now, even before the professional era began in the late 1990s, there has been a constant undercurrent of bickering and battling among those who purport to run the game in this country.

That is why the Special General Meeting of the SRU on Monday night, and the follow-up SGM to be held in August, might well be transformational for the sport. Put simply, with the leadership of Professor Lorne Crerar, the Standing Committee on Governance of the Scottish Rugby Union Council has successfully proposed considerable alterations to the way the SRU runs.

The hybrid meeting with many attending via video call took just 15 minutes and the vote was 109 to 9, so the SRU will have a completely new look about it come August. A new company limited by guarantee and retaining the name Scottish Rugby Union – it doesn’t need to be ‘limited’ or a plc – will own all the assets of the current SRU including Murrayfield and the rights to internationals.

From my reading of things, the best outcomes are that the clubs will still own the Union, that the Murrayfield executives including chief exec Mark Dodson will have to report to the new company’s directors every three months and that the professional and domestic sides of the sport will be split and have their own budgets. There will be greater transparency across the Union’s activities, especially because the clubs will have the right to elect two of the new directors.  

The document I will call the Crerar Report was adopted by the SRU Council whose name was on the motion to the SGM. Prof Crerar is steeped in rugby lore as well as being a very fine lawyer, and his years as a referee and then being in charge of disciplinary hearings have given him the experience necessary to produce the Report which is an admirably clear and precise document. I am told that his personal expertise and commitment were instrumental in bringing forward these changes.

I was very struck by the way that Prof Crerar acknowledged the problems. In his introductory notes, he harked back to a major constitutional crisis in the SRU back in 2005 which ended with the Dunlop Report implementing the current governance structure which I contend could have worked if it had been fully implemented and been ‘bought into’ by all involved.          

Prof Crerar quoted the Dunlop Report: “Much of the recent unrest amongst Clubs and others, stems from a feeling that they have not been allowed to participate in or been properly consulted about important decisions. Whether this is true or not it is what is felt”.

Crerar then added: “It is clear to me from all the diligence I have carried out that the ‘governance problem’ remains unresolved and indeed is significantly worse than previously. Often in evidence across the stakeholder group the words ‘mistrust’, ‘lack of trust’ or even ‘bitterness’ were frequently used. I am also acutely aware of ‘governance fatigue’ of all stakeholders and a pressing need to resolve long standing governance issues.”

So all of us who complained about the ill feelings within the various strands of governance were right after all. Disputes between paid executives and volunteer council members were very real, and were often personalised – not a way to run any business.   

There will be many who will say governance changes do not affect what is happening on the pitch and will never contribute anything to the national teams, men and women, but I don’t accept that. It may not happen this week or over the summer, but I genuinely believe that the changes approved by the SGM will have a good long-term effect on all aspects of rugby on Scotland – growing the grass roots and rewarding those clubs who want to progress which in turn will lead to finding more and better players, male and female.

A personal plea for one immediate change: it is probably too much to hope, but perhaps the new company might have as its first item of business the ending of our two professional clubs’ policies of recruiting non-Scottish qualified players.               

As for the administrators of our game, such as Mark Dodson and board chairman John Jeffrey, the fact is that both men are nearing the end of their appointments and will be up for having their positions continued – if they want that – next year. I think JJ has done all he can, while Dodson – who I know wasn’t happy with governance issues himself – will need to knuckle down and work within the new structure and with the people that will run the Scottish Rugby Union company.

Above all, if this new structure is to work, there will have to be a change of mindset within Scottish rugby – humility instead of arrogance, the ability to accept questioning, and the creation of a new bond of trust across the game.