Rugby: Bob Carruthers slams SRU in new book

Bob Carruthers
Bob Carruthers
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Former Edinburgh Rugby owner Bob Carruthers has thrown down a gauntlet to Scottish Rugby bosses in a new book due to be launched today.

Carruthers, who owned Edinburgh for a turbulent 2006-07 season, pulls no punches in giving a highly personal version of his time in charge while pointing accusing fingers at those running the game in his book The Murrayfield Experience.

The potential bombshell content can be summed up by a chapter referring to various threats of defamation which, according to Carruthers, have yet to be followed through and railing further against what he calls “the mighty forces of spin from Murrayfield”. The movie mogul declares: “I won’t be beaten by bullies.”

Spread over 250 pages, many of them reproduced legal documents, Carruthers says he expects to sell 50,000 copies of the book from an on-line agency but insists: “What is important is if we sell 20 copies to the right people to start a debate.

“It is really about a starting point for a debate: is SRU Plc fit for purpose?”

Kicking off his own “debate” Mr Carruthers put at the centre of arguments the role of traditional clubs in the professional game and in an exclusive interview with the Evening News told us: “Has it (Scottish Rugby plc) actually lost sight that its stakeholders are the clubs and that it is there to benefit the clubs?

“It has become an organisation that appears to benefit only itself.

“I am optimistic. You have got to be. The SRU does change. It does have a new guard. We’ve been disappointed our complaints have been brushed off but as a sport we deliver £25-£30 million a year from television and other activities so there is going to be enough money there to rebuild the game. But we have got to get people playing, help the clubs. We have to give them the money, the infrastructure and the premises.”

The SRU steadfastedly maintains growth is taking place but this is vehemently disputed by Carruthers, who says: “When I played at Kirkcaldy it used to run six sides. It is now down to three, possibly two, and the same is happening all over Scotland.

“Clubs introduce people to the game and it is very important that the money – we are lucky as a sport because we have £25-£30 million a year flowing in from television and other sources – should create enormously wealthy clubs and possibilities for players while attracting entrepreneurs to the professional game. In fact, many clubs consider themselves to be net payers so it is important we look at the function of SRU plc. It is there to serve the clubs and somehow it has become turned on its head. The clubs seem to be there to serve the SRU plc and that needs to change. Since SRU plc was formed in 1995 over half a billion pounds has come into the game in Scotland and virtually nothing finds its way to the clubs.

“The Scottish Football Association do not own Celtic or Rangers or Hearts or Hibs. The cost of pro rugby is £3-4m per team per year and it is absolutely essential that people from outside come in and shoulder that burden.”

On page one of the book he underlines that point, writing: “Sale and Gloucester have had the benefit of funds injected by Scottish entrepreneurs, so clearly there is an appetite out there but entrepreneurs drive a hard bargain which would mean SRU plc having to yield control.”

He also told the Evening News: “The pro game is too expensive to be carried on in any other way; that is the model that is used overseas and in England and Wales and we need to do the same thing.

“It is essential we form a genuine pyramid so that the clubs are involved, so that everybody feels they are part of the pyramid. Scottish Rugby goes through atrocious periods. I have been going to Murrayfield since 1968 and seen some lean times but as a Union we have never got to grips with the professional era.

“When I took over Edinburgh it was recognised we needed a minimum of three professional clubs and our aspiration, as well as that of SRU plc, was to build back to four. That has been reined back to two and it just does not give our professional teams sufficient game time.

“We have pro players who have game time measured in minutes. There are only 22 games and in a normal season there are only half a dozen others in the Heineken Cup and it is just not enough to give them experience. You can see it with the national squad because a lot of these guys are taken away and are playing even less.”

The subject of the national squad’s wooden spoon dominates the introduction.

“I have just returned from Rome where I witnessed Scotland plunge to a record new low in a season of record lows.

“We were knocked out of the Rugby World Cup at the group stage for the first time in October 2011, crowned wooden spoon winners in March 2012 and we are currently rated No. 12 in the world, our lowest ever ranking.

“The unfortunate situation will prevail until the SRU learn to work with outside entrepreneurs who can bring the additional finance required to ease the massive financial burden of professional rugby.”

The Murrayfield Experience, published by JagdTiger (Bahamas), priced £2.99