Ready to hand on the baton
History-maker Dee Bradbuy is nearing the end of her two-year term as President of Scottish Rugby.
She never saw her role – where she became the first female President of a Tier One rugby union in the world – as a “platform for feminism or women’s rights.”
“It was never going to be about that for me. Rugby in Scotland is welcoming to anyone and everyone and the most important thing is to continue to demonstrate that and encourage more people to become involved in our game,” she said.
“From the outset, being elected President was, for me, not about feminism, women’s rights, even women’s rugby. It just so happens I’m a woman.
“Over the two years, the amount of constructive feedback I’ve received has been phenomenal; from other Unions, from the grassroots all the way up.
“I haven’t encountered any of the stereo-types that some people suggest sport can have about women, though sometimes there’s been a raised eyebrow when some well-meaning individual will ask ‘So, what exactly do you do at Scottish Rugby?’ and I reply that I’m the President!
“The most powerful message from my Presidency? Meeting some girls when I went along to watch an under-20s training session and one of them saying to me ‘I want to be you when I’m older.’
“I use the phrase quite a lot, you can’t be what you can’t see. It’s very humbling to think that being in this post could serve to inspire other women and girls to dream.
“I also firmly believe that anyone elected to the post of President, male or female, will continue to champion that Scottish Rugby is open and accessible to all.”
When Bradbury first became president of her club, Oban Lorne, she reckoned there were only a couple of other female club presidents in Scotland.
Now, as part of Scottish Rugby’s culture of inclusion, she is proud that many more women are in key positions in clubs and that the percentage of female staff employed by Scottish Rugby is growing beyond one third.
But, as she stresses constantly, it’s examples of inclusion across the game that provide some of the happiest memories from her term in office.
“Our young players at clubs and schools have to have something to aspire towards. They must be able to dream they can pull on the Scotland jersey and win for Scotland.
“Now very few will but that must not stop us striving to align the heroes from our national teams with those youngsters.
“The more our professional players can be available and accessible to the grassroots game, the better.
“I remember the impact that Fraser Brown, Sean Lamont and Laura Stephen made when they came to Oban Lorne as part of Royal Bank Rugby Force.
“They were great ambassadors for the game, and they gave our kids in Oban every chance to dream,” she explained.
As President, Dee Bradbury loved the multi-faceted nature of the post. “One week I could be welcoming the Princess Royal to BT Murrayfield. The next I could be at training with the minis at Allan Glen’s for example.
“A huge privilege for me was to take the Calcutta Cup to clubs and see what it meant to players, particularly young players to hold it.”
Her highlights from her service on the Scottish Rugby Council are both very personal and symbolic of the many efforts that are required for club rugby to take place, let alone flourish.
“Being on the pitch and being able to greet my son (Magnus) in the Scotland team line-up was a special personal moment.
“During the Autumn Tests in 2016, I had invited my sister Johanna and my dad to a match, when we were aware that my dad was terminally ill.
“During that visit, I was able to arrange that my dad was presented to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland (my dad was a retired Police officer like me), the Princess Royal, and Prince Albert of Monaco. Understandably, he was very impressed.
“Post-match, we were joined by a number of Olympians and at one point I turned around to see my dad wearing two gold medals from the Olympic rowers at our table.
“He talked about that day until he died. The power of rugby to give happy memories to a dying man was priceless and it was a huge privilege for me to be able to orchestrate it.
“I have enjoyed travelling to as many clubs across the country as I possibly can. I particularly enjoyed visiting Orkney and Shetland with colleagues in our Rugby Development department, because it underlined to me, even coming from a club outwith the Central Belt, the challenges that face rural rugby clubs.
“I heard from one of the women players who takes a fishing boat, stays overnight then takes two ferries back, and that’s just to attend a training session.
“That says it all about the huge passion for the game in our rural clubs, most of whom have smaller populations to choose from than clubs in the cities. We must always make the greatest use of that passion.”
Dee also was proud to attend the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
She insists she has no regrets from her time in office but acknowledges challenges, not least her own health, when three months into lockdown she had a cardiac arrest, from which she was revived by her husband, Nick, through the use of a community defibrillator.
“To drop ‘dead’ after a Council meeting . . . well, that’s hopefully the first and last for any President,” she joked.
“But I wouldn’t put the cardiac arrest down to any particular reason. It could have happened at any time.”
Happily, after a stay in hospital, she is now making a strong recovery at home.
She wishes her successor, Ian Barr, well. “Ian has a strong foundation in the clubs, has done great things at Lasswade and forged successful partnerships.
“Being President is a fantastic experience. It is hard work but if you put in the hard work, you absolutely reap the reward.”