Top clubs threaten breakaway as turmoil grips SRU

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The Independent Online

Scottish rugby is in turmoil with leading clubs threatening to break away from the SRU, senior figures resigning in droves, and a question mark over the future of the chief executive, Phil Anderton, and the technical director, Ian McGeechan.

Scottish rugby is in turmoil with leading clubs threatening to break away from the SRU, senior figures resigning in droves, and a question mark over the future of the chief executive, Phil Anderton, and the technical director, Ian McGeechan.

On the pitch things are no better. Last year Scotland suffered a Six Nations whitewash; this season Edinburgh and Glasgow have lost all five of their European Cup matches to date; and Borders prop up the Celtic League table, just two places below Edinburgh.

That might explain why the SRU is struggling ever harder to sell the game to the Scottish public. While England, Ireland and Wales regularly sell all tickets for their home Six Nations matches, the SRU is trying to sell tickets for home games in this year's tournament to the same public who shunned autumn internationals against Australia and South Africa.

At Murrayfield sales fell more than 20,000 short of the capacity 67,500 for the Tests against the Wallabies and Springboks and the experiment to play the second Test against Australia at Hampden Park resulted in fewer than 30,000 tickets being sold. The Japan match in Perth was a sell-out, but the capacity there was 10,278.

No surprise, then, that more resignations are expected, with the dread prospect of McGeechan, a coaching legend for Scotland and the British and Irish Lions, possibly going, perhaps to be followed by the present Scotland coach, Matt Williams, and his assistant, Willie Anderson.

A row had been simmering for months between Scotland's clubs and the SRU executive, with club sides fearing a loss of policy-making power to the governing body, but the whole furore was sparked by a vote of no confidence in the SRU chairman, David Mackay, on Monday, followed yesterday by the resignation of three members of the executive board.

Last night the Premier Forum, set up to help Scottish clubs, warned of a breakaway. Kenny Hamilton, a Premier Forum spokesman, was reported as saying: "It [a breakaway] may have to be considered. I have yet to find an individual or a club who feels that the problem in Scottish rugby is David Mackay. I've been through a lot in Scottish rugby in the last decade, but this is as low as it has been. The general committee have effectively placed a noose around their necks."

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