MARK Dodson has insisted that he and his executive team are fully committed to, and capable of, leading Scottish Rugby through the major financial squeeze it faces as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The last two years have been tumultuous for the game in this country with a series of scandals and governance failures eroding grassroots trust in the people running the sport. Dodson has been at the centre of the controversy, with his £933,000 pay packet for last year a cause for serious angst, and the chief executive clearly recognises that this situation is his moment to prove that he serves the greater good of the whole game, and not just the interests of a small cabal based under the West Stand at Murrayfield.

“This is a moment where, as a CEO, you face down the challenge,” stated Dodson. “You don’t welcome it, but it comes onto your toes and it is how you are defined – how you are defined by your staff, how you are defined by other people and how you are defined by you guys [the press].

“Anything that comes our way, we won’t duck,” he continued. “We’ll make sure we get through this crisis, Scottish Rugby will still be intact, our pro teams will be there and competitive, so will our national team, and for our employers and all our stakeholders, we will work endlessly and tirelessly to make it work and make it happen for them. Because we can’t walk round talking about #AsOne and not deliver as one.

“I’d rather not be dealing with it, I’d rather be dealing with positive problems, but I don’t walk away from difficult situations – and I’ll be there when everyone else has gone home for their tea, put it that way.”

It is not entirely clear just how badly the Scottish game will be rocked by the crisis. Much will depend on how quickly government social distancing guidelines can be relaxed, but Dodson has previously stated that a worst-case scenario of next year’s Six Nations being cancelled would cost the business £40 million – which is two-thirds of last year’s turnover – while the loss of this year’s Autumn Tests would be worth ‘north’ of £12 million.

Dodson has been at the helm at Murrayfield since 2011, which has coincided with a period of significant growth in the money floating around rugby globally, and the SRU’s turnover has grown at a higher rate than the other ‘Home Unions’ (albeit starting from a much lower base), but this hasn’t been used to build-up cash reserves which makes it inevitable that a period of significant belt tightening is on the way.

The brash enterprises which have characterised Dodson’s tenure – such as Scottish Rugby’s investment in overseas clubs such as Stade Niçois in the South of France and Old Glory DC in the USA – are going to be increasingly difficult to justify.

The creation of a ‘Mini-Murrayfield’ on the back pitches of the national stadium campus will also need to be looked into, although Dodson argues that there are strong commercial reasons for completing that project.

“It’s over halfway through construction now,” he explained. “We have to go through some health-and-safety procedures, but I think it would be our ambition to complete the stadium for several reasons – firstly we’re in the middle of a building project with contracts, secondly we think it’s a revenue-earner for Edinburgh, and thirdly the supporters of Edinburgh have waited long enough for a new stadium.”

Scottish Rugby is, of course, about much more than the professional tier, and while Dodson has been accused in the past of having deaf ears when it comes to the grassroots, he was keen to highlight their importance during this week’s briefing.

“We’re not only a commercial business where we have to keep our pro-teams and our international team competitive, we’ve got a responsibility as a governing body to the whole domestic scene, clubland and youth sport across Scotland,” he said. “That’s a pretty difficult balancing act at times.

“What we’re going to have to do is look at our business and reset it. We’ve got a four-point plan: respond to the crisis, reset, recover and rebuild. That’s what we’ll do and we’ve got the skills inside the business to be able to do that.

“I’ve worked in businesses that have been massively successful, but that also had real problems like the press have got at the moment,” added the former Chief Executive of the Guardian Media Group’s regional operation. “I’ve been there and understand what it takes to get the organisation back on an even keel and then drive it forward again.

“It’s happened before, it will happen again, and we will have to change our posture. But we won’t change our posture for long. Once we’re through this, we’re going to start to grow our business again because that’s how we pay for everything.”

It was stirring rhetoric. The ball is in Dodson’s court to prove that his actions speak louder than words.