Mark Dodson has dismissed any notion that criticism of Scottish Rugby’s handling of Siobhan Cattigan’s death played a part in his decision to call time on his near-13-year reign as chief executive.
The Englishman was appointed in September 2011 and his most recent contract, signed in 2022, was due to take him up to June 2025, but the 63-year-old revealed on Friday that he will instead depart this summer, declaring it “the perfect time” to move on.
Dodson’s announcement comes just two months after the governing body apologised – via a statement from recently-appointed chair John McGuigan – for the way it dealt with the death of 26-year-old Scotland Women international Cattigan in November 2021.
Cattigan’s family said undetected rugby-related brain damage caused a significant decline in her health, while they also criticised Scottish Rugby for its failure to inform some of her team-mates of the family’s wishes that they attend her funeral and also for not attempting to pay tribute to her at an international match until almost 18 months after her death.
Asked if the fallout from Cattigan’s death had been a factor in his decision to step down, Dodson said: “There is no connection. It is an upsetting affair and it’s been a difficult time for everybody, but it had no bearing on my decision at all.”
Dodson – who has polarised opinion throughout his reign – also played down claims that he is leaving Scottish Rugby in ailing health after the organisation reported a £10.5million loss for the last financial year.
“I think the business is performing really, really well,” he said. “When you look at statutory accounts and you see the losses there and you look widely, rugby’s in a tough place at the moment across the whole of the UK and the southern hemisphere.
“We’re trading well in a really difficult market so, from my point of view, the business is doing well and I’m happy with where we are on that.”
Dodson is adamant there was no pressure on him from anyone within Scottish Rugby to leave his position.
“None at all, it was entirely my decision,” he said. “I talked through with John McGuigan at length during the autumn and I suggested this was the right time to go. We agreed, we moved on.
“Several factors were in play to influence my decision. When we got back from the World Cup, I thought long and hard with the family and we believed it was only right that the next World Cup cycle be given to someone who is actually going to see it through.
“My contract was up until 2025. It was there to make sure we had continuity between the new governance structure and the new boards being bedded down.
“We’ve made tremendous progress on that. John and I have worked really closely together since he joined the business and the new strategy piece we are doing at the moment will run for a 10-year period.
“It was right for me to say ‘I think we should hand this over to someone who will be able to execute it over the long term’.
“The national teams are in good shape, the two pro teams are in good shape, we had a record crowd (for the 1872 Cup game between Edinburgh and Glasgow), we’ve got two nascent female teams just coming through.
“We felt it was the right time to move on. There are other things I want to do in my career and we felt it was the perfect time to do that.”
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