MORE than 20 years after the Scottish Rugby Union’s mounting financial crisis forced them to slash their professional tier from four teams to two, the organisation have finally been able to declare themselves debt free.

The accounts published ahead of next weekend’s Annual General Meeting, show they have increased turnover for the 11th consecutive year, up to £61.1m – still well short of the £97m reported by the Welsh Rugby Union and the €87.5m the Irish brought in.

In the letter to the clubs accompanying the accounts, chief operating officer Dominic McKay says the increase is down to more money coming in from tickets, broadcast deals and other income, offsetting a drop in sponsorship.

“We are also pleased to report that we are now free of debt, putting the organisation in a strong financial position,” he added.

Though the SRU have been heading in this direction for a while, it is still a significant milestone for them to be able to declare themselves free of the burden that has held them back since the early days of professionalism.

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The numbers are a far cry from the £21m overdraft – it had been as high as £24m at one stage in the season – they reported alongside a £8.4m loss in 2004, the worst year in their finances and a time when they were seriously considering they might have to sell Murrayfield to get back on an even keel.

The big development has undoubtedly been on the sales and marketing side where they have managed to sell out the last 14 home matches, while Glasgow Warriors were sell-outs at Scotstoun for almost every home game last season while also playing their role in bringing 47,128 to the Guinness PRO14 final at Celtic Park.

Partly driven by their breakthrough Heineken Champions Cup campaign, Edinburgh also saw a 60 per cent increase in crowd numbers, headlined by the 36,358 who saw them play Munster in the Heineken

Champions Cup quarter-final.

Looking to the future, chief executive Mark Dodson gave a strong hint that investment bank CVC, who already have a 27 per cent share in the English Premiership, are about to get involved with Scotland as well. They are known to have been in talks with both the PRO14 and the Six Nations about buying shares in both competitions.

“Scotland is playing a full and central part in these negotiations,” Dodson wrote in the report. “We are confident there are opportunities to transform the game in the near future.”