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SRU boss optimistic over sport return after talks with Scottish Government

Dominic McKay took part in a conference call on Tuesday and was encouraged, despite recognising a return to action will take time.

Scottish Rugby Union chief operating officer Dominic McKay is confident sport can find a way of safely returning following talks with the Scottish Government.

McKay took part in a conference call on Tuesday with sports minister Joe Fitzpatrick and national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch, along with chief executives from the main two Scottish football authorities plus Scottish Racing and sportscotland.

McKay was encouraged by the talks, although he recognises a return to action will take time – he predicts rugby players will need up to 10 weeks of training before playing a game.

He said: "It is probably too soon to be talking about 'likely' anything in the current environment, but what we presented is what we felt is a solution to addressing initial issues around training.

"Then we have to come back and share and keep having that dialogue with the Government and other sports around best practice on how you graduate to that next level of contact training, and thereafter playing a game, and that game may well be behind closed doors.

"By sharing best practice and having a measured and sensible approach to how we can return I would be confident that we can find solutions.

"Our focus now is that we can come to them with some ideas, get their thoughts and views, then come up with some appropriate measures.

"But that has to be when it is sensible and appropriate and I can't emphasise that enough, we will be led totally by Government and the medics. But we want to get out back playing rugby."

Scottish Professional Football League chief executive Neil Doncaster warned after the meeting that his sport was in "grave peril" and made a clear plea for public funding to see it through the coronavirus pandemic.

Neil Doncaster made a pitch for public money
Neil Doncaster made a pitch for public money (PA)

While stressing it was an introductory meeting, McKay is sure the Scottish Government appreciates the economic and social benefits of sport after he laid out rugby's financial issues.

"Myself and football certainly raised the challenge that we both face just now," McKay said. "It's a significant challenge and that's not just for the governing body, that's the whole sport including grassroots clubs.

"The government, I am sure, get that.

"We will have further meetings where finance perhaps will be higher up the agenda.  But it's an enormous challenge. You will have seen various sports at the DCMS in London on Tuesday talking about the financial challenges they all face and effectively making a request of Government to make that consideration.

"We will be speaking to Government both in Scotland and London to share our challenge, and it's not insignificant.

"Sport has got a special place in the heart of so many people. The country needs sport to resume, only when it's appropriate.

BT Murrayfield holds 67,000 fans
BT Murrayfield holds 67,000 fans (PA)

"We are speaking at the moment to London in respect to our views on the furlough scheme, and we're obviously having conversations with the Scottish Government as well, but we recognise that there is a big draw on the public finances and I suppose rugby from a business perspective has a role to play when it restarts to contribute back into the economy.

"Last year, we had an independent study commissioned by YouGov which looked at the events we had at BT Murrayfield, Scotstoun and Celtic Park, and we generated £152million for the Scottish economy.

"So, when we can, we want to play a part in helping restart the economy, but we also need to do that in a respectful way.

"But also in terms of mental health. That was something we spoke about, that sport has the ability, usually, as a Scotland supporter, to positively affect the mental health of the nation."

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