Mark Dodson

Mark Dodson: Scottish Rugby chief to step down & denies he was forced out

Mark DodsonMark Dodson will step down after nearly 13 years with Scottish Rugby

Mark Dodson says he has not come under internal pressure to leave Scottish Rugby and his exit as chief executive this summer is “entirely my decision”.

The 63-year-old has faced criticism for his handling of the Siobhan Cattigan tragedy and the financial performance of the union, which posted a £10.5m loss for the last financial year.

However, Dodson says he is ending his near 13-year tenure of his own volition.

“It was entirely my decision,” he said.

“I talked through with [Scottish Rugby chairman] John McGuigan at length during the autumn and I suggested this was the right time to go. We agreed, we moved on.”

The union last year apologised “wholeheartedly” and said it “let down” the family of Scotland player Cattigan after she passed away in 2021.

Cattigan’s family said undetected rugby-related brain damage caused a “catastrophic decline” in the 26-year-old’s health and led to her death.

“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 said.

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Dodson, appointed in 2011, was contracted until summer 2025 but with work ongoing on Scottish Rugby’s 10-year strategy, he felt “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’.

He added: “The national teams are in good shape, the two pro teams are in good shape, we had a record crowd [of 37,000 for the 1872 Cup game], we’ve got two nascent female teams just coming through.

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“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.

“There are other things I want to do in my career and we felt it was the perfect time to do that.”

Dodson, previously of Guardian Media Group, represents Scotland on the boards of the British and Irish Lions, Six Nations, United Rugby Championship, World Rugby Council and the general assembly of European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR).

When asked about the £10.5m loss in the union’s last set of accounts, he said: “I think the business is performing really, really well.

“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.”

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And on the club game, Dodson said: “The foundations are in good shape. If you look at what we’re trying to do – create role models, create winning teams, then build a stadium – that creates money and a flow of cash that can be reinvested in the rest of the game.

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“We invest a huge amount of money into grassroots rugby and will continue to do that. The new pathway system we’re working on as part of our 10-year strategic plan will correct some of the weaknesses in the pathway.”

Chair John McGuigan said Dodson has made a “significant contribution” to Scottish Rugby, including steering it through the Covid pandemic.

The union is also seeking a new performance director in the summer after Jim Mallinder announced last month he is stepping down.

“Mark has given over a decade of his career to Scottish Rugby so it is understandable that this was a significant decision,” said McGuigan.

“It will, though, enable us to progress the recruitment for the new performance director and his own successor as chief executive in an open and transparent manner and for that I’d like to thank him.”