THERE was no doubting who the apple of the Scottish rugby family’s eye was on Saturday as Glasgow’s Guinness PRO12 triumph was rightly pushed front and centre at the annual general meeting.
The trophy was on display at BT Murrayfield and their magnificent achievement was showcased as a slick video montage, complete with Take That soundtrack, during the meeting. However, Edinburgh were by no means forgotten, with their excellent run to the European Challenge Cup final also acknowledged and SRU chief executive Mark Dodson is eager to see the Capital outfit respond to the Glasgow gauntlet and drive up their own standards next season as Alan Solomons goes into his third season as coach.
Under the South African’s leadership Edinburgh have finished eighth in the PRO12 for the past two campaigns and the 65-year-old has stated that a top-four finish is the target next term.
Speaking to the press following Saturday morning’s AGM, Dodson said: “That was Alan’s target not mine. the pressure [Glasgow coach] Gregor [Townsend] and Alan put on themselves is far greater than any pressure I can put on them.
“This is where it’s great for me because they [the pro-team coaches] are saying this is where they want to be and this is where they believe they can be. I think we’re going to be very strong in the forwards at Edinburgh next year.
“We’ll have to be careful in the backs that we don’t get too many knocks but there will be good young kids coming through. I think what you’ll see with Alan, in his third year here, he’ll start defining the way we play. It wasn’t very ambitious in the first year, it was a bit more ambitious last season, and this year I think you’ll see more of an ‘all-court game’. That’s certainly the conversations I’ve had with him.”
Saturday’s AGM felt like a return home as 189 voting delegates turned up at BT Murrayfield, a big increase on the attendances when the last two meetings were held at Heriot-Watt University’s Riccarton campus. However, it is widely accepted that the cavernous national stadium is not the ideal home for the capital pro team and Dodson said resolving that issue remains a goal.
A few months ago there was talk of a possibility of taking a couple of home games to Hibs’ Easter Road this season as a test and Dodson said: “We’re working hard on that with some partners across the piece. It’s always delicate when you’re doing these negotiations because they do take time and are complex. But as soon as we have anything to say we’ll be the first to tell you. It is our intention to continue to search and search and search until we find a more appropriate venue.”
The AGM was a smooth affair, with the only serious debate coming with Glasgow Hawks’ motion, seconded by Cartha Queens Park, to delay the SRU’s new youth and schools structure until a consultation process was underaken, was not carried. The contentious issue surrounds the aspect of the policy that, for parts of the season, a player must choose between club and school and not play for both. The Hawks’ motion to delay received support in the hall but was well beaten by a show of hands.
That means the 11 new youth and schools conferences will begin as planned at the end of this month.
Other business saw the terms of president and vice-president increased from one to two years from 2016, with Ed Crozier ratified as the new president, succeeding Ian Rankin.
A motion to prevent any competitive adult fixtures being played on the same day as a home Scotland Six Nations fixture, unless both clubs agree, was carried.
Rob Flockhart of Boroughmuir won a very tight all-Lothian contest for the vice-presidency, edging out Ian Barr of Lasswade by 96 votes to 92.
Flockhart played for the Meggetland club, Melrose and Edinburgh and is a former team manager of Scotland Under-21s and Scotland A, as well as a spell as a national selector. The solicitor has been a top-level citing commissioner and is the independent chair of the SRU Council Working Party on Governance.
“I came to it [the election] very late and it’s all a bit of blur at the moment to be honest,” said Flockhart after his victory. “About the middle of May a couple of guys in Scottish rugby I respect highly suggested to me that given how I had been mouthing off over the winter about how important the presidency and the Council was that it was maybe time to put my money where my mouth was. So it has all happened very fast and it’s quite emotional really.
“I come from the governance side of things so you would expect me to say that. It’s about making sure that clubs have a strong voice and the Council questions these guys [the Board] in a positive way.”