The Scottish Rugby Union has been fined £70,000 and ordered to apologise to World Rugby for criticism of a possible cancellation of their World Cup fixture against Japan.
The Pool A World Cup match in question – which came down to a straight shootout for a place in the quarter-finals – was in doubt because of the approaching Typhoon Hagibis.
SRU chief executive Mark Dodson publicly criticised World Rugby’s ‘rigidity’ and threatened the governing body with legal action to force the game to be postponed and not cancelled. In the end, the match went ahead as originally scheduled with Japan claiming a 28-21 triumph to advance, while Scotland were eliminated.
The SRU and Dodson were reported to an independent disputes committee, who has now found that comments made by the SRU representatives in relation to the potential impact of Typhoon Hagibis on the match constituted misconduct.
Two charges were brought by World Rugby in line with the Rugby World Cup 2019 Terms of Participation and World Rugby Regulation 20.2 (Misconduct and Code of Conduct):
- Comments made by Mark Dodson in the UK Telegraph newspaper, the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, and at the Scotland team announcement on 11 October 2019.
- Comments attributed to an SRU spokesperson in the UK Telegraph newspaper on 10 October 2019 and the SRU’s Counsel Nick De Marco QC in the UK The Sun newspaper on 11 October 2019 and the UK Telegraph newspaper on 12 October 2019.
The fine handed down amounts to more than R1.3m.
World Rugby strongly believed the comments, which suggested an unfair and disorganised treatment of all teams, to be inappropriate and ill-judged at a time when Japan was preparing for the largest and most destructive typhoon in decades.
The international federation believed that such comments brought the game into disrepute, not only in relation to World Rugby’s handling of an extraordinary situation but also in the message that it sent to the Japanese people.
Having considered all the evidence, including submissions by World Rugby and the SRU, the committee determined in respect of the first charge that comments attributed to Mark Dodson amounted to misconduct and brought the game into disrepute.
In respect of the second charge, the available evidence was insufficient for the committee to be satisfied on the balance of probabilities as to the source of the offending remarks and therefore it dismissed the charge.
Having determined clear misconduct, the committee handed down the following sanction:
- The SRU is formally reprimanded for its conduct.
- The SRU should issue in writing a meaningful apology to World Rugby and Rugby World Cup Limited for its misconduct in terms approved by the committee.
- The SRU is fined the sum of £70,000.
The committee also notes that the fine will be donated to the Childfund Pass it Back programme on World Rugby’s instruction, assisting with the ongoing relief effort in areas affected by Typhoon Hagibis.
Prior to its decision, the committee gave the parties ample time to resolve the dispute. World Rugby made an open offer to the SRU which required the SRU to apologise for its conduct and make a donation to the Typhoon disaster relief fund in Japan. The SRU suggested alternative wording which included a mutual expression of regret from both parties, and no apology.
The SRU has since released a statement saying the organisation is considering all options available to it, including arbitration.
RWC2019 | @Scotlandteam received the Independent Disputes Committee ruling from World Rugby this morning. We will now reflect on this outcome and further consider all our options, which may include arbitration.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) November 7, 2019
Photo: Paul Devlin/SNS