THE curious case of the SRU’s aborted attempt to ban Borders video journalist Stuart Cameron from producing short highlights packages of local club games a few weeks ago tells us a huge amount about the governing body’s relationship with their member clubs, and provides valuable context ahead of a week when the recommendations of an “independent” review into the governance and management structures of the game in this country – conducted by established Murrayfield insider Sir Bill Gammell – is due to be published.

To recap, Cameron – who has covered club rugby throughout Scotland but primarily in the Borders for the last 13 years – was informed last month by the SRU’s “content manager” Jamie McMillan that he would no longer be allowed to film matches and create short highlights packages for his own website and local television station ITV Border, unless a rights’ deal could be negotiated with the SRU’s own corporate department.

Cameron was left distraught, and posted a message on social media explaining why his work would no longer be available. This prompted a huge outpouring of support for him and a furious backlash against the governing body.

Murrayfield quickly switched into damage limitation mode, briefing journalists that Cameron had got the wrong end of the stick and had jumped the gun. It was claimed that a final email – which had apparently been written but wasn’t due to be sent until the next morning – was going to clarify that Cameron would be allowed to carry on doing pretty much exactly as he had been doing.

Having eventually received this “clarification”, Cameron agreed with the SRU to publish an update but was adamant he would not back-track his initial statement. There was dialogue between Cameron and the SRU’s media department on what the wording should be, until the below was eventually agreed:

“I’m humbled by the overwhelming support following my earlier statement. Scottish Rugby have clarified a difference of interpretation of our ongoing conversation, the upshot of which is I’m allowed to cover club rugby.

“I genuinely believed the door was shut but I’m pleased Scottish Rugby have engaged with me. I thank Scottish Rugby for this and am happy with the very satisfactory outcome.”

That could, and really should, have been the end of it. But the SRU were clearly concerned the optics still didn’t look good for them.

Even after Cameron’s update, it was hard to interpret this sequence of events as anything other than an attempt to put a highly-regarded member of the press out of business for no valid reason and with zero regard for the negative impact this would have on the profile of Borders rugby.

It had been dressed up as an attempt to haggle a fee for the rights to those games, but McMillan knew fine well that the two-minute highlight packages being produced by Cameron are of no commercial value.

The whole thing looked bad. But instead of holding their hands up, apologising and trying to learn from the experience, they indulged in some back-channelling in what looked very much like a deliberate attempt to undermine Cameron.

At the same time as Cameron was being cajoled by the SRU into issuing his updated statement, a senior member of the governing body’s media team was privately messaging journalists with misleading claims that Cameron’s initial statement was factually wrong.

Worse still, SRU president Dee Bradbury then issued a statement to member clubs in which she addressed the issue.

“This has now been fully clarified with Mr Cameron and he has entered a retraction on his social media,” she said.

Cameron was initially incandescent and made his thoughts known to Murrayfield. While Bradbury quickly got in contact with him to say it was a misunderstanding, and he was ultimately grateful for the opportunity to give his side of the story and explain some of the frustrations he has had in recent years with how the SRU micro-manage his access, the SRU refused to correct the erroneous statement.

Whether by accident or design, the SRU had actively portrayed the victim as the culprit and then refused to correct this clear falsehood when asked to do so.

So, we all moved on. Cameron is back doing exactly what he has been doing for the last decade and a half, while the SRU’s reputation amongst grassroots rugby supporters was more tarnished than it was before.

The stated aim of the imminent governance and business review is to prepare the SRU for the arrival of significant cash injections from global private equity firms – but it doesn’t matter what structures are in place to deal with that if the over-riding ethos of the organisation is rotten.