Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors get go-ahead to seek investment

Glasgow Warriors against Edinburgh
Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh are Scotland's two professional teams

Scottish Rugby's member clubs have voted unanimously to allow external investment in pro-teams Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors.

All 171 attendees supported president Rob Flockhart's motion to fund its professional and performance set-up.

The decision hands the union an "immediate mandate" to seek inward investment.

"This was a pivotal moment for the game in Scotland," said Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson.

"I am delighted our members have empowered us to move forward.

"The hard work really does start now and we will now take time to prepare before entering a challenging market with what we think is a compelling and credible investment opportunity."

Scottish Rugby president Rob Flockhart added: "This vote will enable us to not only seek inward investment to the professional sides but also help to secure funding levels to our grassroots game and protect it from rising costs elsewhere in the game."

Any proposed investment would first have to be approved by the Scottish Rugby Board.

A two-thirds majority was required from the delegates when they gathered at Murrayfield on Friday.

In a statement last month, the union said there was "no immediate interest" from any external investor on the table.

Dominic McKay, the SRU's chief operating officer, said: "It's almost unprecedented in Scottish rugby to have an unanimous vote on something.

"I think everybody recognises that the challenge of running and operating two professional clubs is significant. The costs involved in running Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby are rising.

"But we've got a responsibility as a governing body to make sure that we invest in all elements of our game and that includes the grassroots as well as the national team.

"So there's a recognition that if we want to be successful we can't do it on our own. The best way to do that is with external investment."

Glasgow Warriors coach Gregor Townsend
Gregor Townsend hopes investment can help his future Scotland sides

Earlier this week, Glasgow Warriors coach Gregor Townsend said he hoped that members would back the move.

The SRU owns and funds both to the tune of about £5m per year, a fraction of the cash clubs in England and France have at their disposal thanks to wealthy investors and television money.

It hopes that private finance can help ensure more players follow full-back Stuart Hogg's recent lead in extending his Warriors contract until 2019.

Scotland's governing body would want to ensure any potential buyers of the two Pro12 clubs would make commitments in terms of future investment and bringing through young Scottish players before selling stakes to investors.

Sports marketing consultant Alan Ferguson is less sceptical than many observers who wonder whether there would be many potential buyers.

"At the last count, global sports sponsorship was worth 50 billion US dollars and growing, so it's not an easy sell," he said.

"But it's sellable and may well appeal to people. But this vote is just a first step."

Delegates on Friday came from 143 members clubs, six regions, plus referees, schools and Scottish Rugby Council members.