Almost exactly two years on from Siobhan Cattigan’s death, the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) have apologised to her family, admitting that they “should have managed this tragic situation better”.
The Scotland Women’s back-rower tragically died aged 26 in November 2021, with her family saying undetected rugby-related brain damage caused a significant decline in her health.
Cattigan suffered two concussions on international duty for Scotland, who she played 19 times for.
Her loved ones claimed that she was not given the required assistance from the SRU for brain injuries. They also criticised the governing body for not holding an independent inquiry into the circumstances that led to her death.
However, two years later and recently-appointed Scottish Rugby chair John McGuigan has now addressed the criticism and apologised to the family.
“I wish to apologise wholeheartedly”
McGuigan revealed that he had met Cattigan’s parents, Neil and Morven, and her partner Ann Taylor, in person over recent months to say sorry on behalf of the governing body.
“As the new chair of SRL, I wish to apologise wholeheartedly for any anguish we caused Siobhan during her time with Scottish Rugby and to her family and loved ones following her passing,” he said in a statement posted on the Scottish Rugby website on Saturday, on the day of Scottish Rugby’s AGM.
“Albeit Scottish Rugby did not intend to cause distress to the family through our actions, it’s clear we should have managed this tragic situation better. We have listened and heeded the lessons and, in Siobhan’s memory, commit to making changes to ensure we are a better organisation in the future.
“Her parents, Neil and Morven, explained to me that joining the Scotland squad in 2018 was an incredibly proud moment for Siobhan and her family. However, during her time as an international player with Scottish Rugby until her passing and thereafter, her family and friends firmly believe Scottish Rugby should have done more to support Siobhan and her memory.”
McGuigan added that he was made aware of the Cattigans’ concerns over the care that their daughter received and was looking for an appropriate way to honour her.
“On joining the Scottish Rugby Ltd Board as Chair in June this year, I was very keen to meet with Mr and Mrs Cattigan to understand their perspective and to find an appropriate way to honour and celebrate Siobhan’s life as an international rugby player and support initiatives that were important to her,” he said.
“When Siobhan was with the Scotland squad, her parents told me there were some situations when we, as Scottish Rugby, should have supported her better. They told me Siobhan had specifically mentioned medical and welfare care, as well as how information around selection was communicated.”
Paying tribute to Cattigan
The SRU also came under fire for failing to inform Cattigan’s teammates of the family’s wishes that they attend her funeral.
They also did not attempt to pay tribute to her at an international match until almost 18 months after her death.
“We also take responsibility for Scottish Rugby’s handling of certain elements surrounding Siobhan’s funeral, including not relaying the family’s wishes to every player, which meant some of Siobhan’s team-mates did not get the opportunity to attend her funeral,” McGuigan continued.
“We also let the family down by not directly contacting the family nor visiting after Siobhan’s passing to offer our condolences.
“Since Siobhan’s passing, there have also been other events which should have been handled differently by the organisation, this also relates to how we referenced Siobhan, and we recognise that Siobhan is one of ‘our people’ too.
“However, Scottish Rugby should have handled, amongst others, the tribute made at Murrayfield prior to the Six Nations game vs Ireland in 2023 more sensitively. We acknowledge the family’s criticism that the tribute should have taken place at a much earlier opportunity, with Siobhan’s top laid down and been held when the players of both teams were on the pitch.
“As Scottish Rugby we are fully committed to support the family’s work to maintain Siobhan’s memory.
“During my meetings with Siobhan’s family we discussed the range of actions we could take together to maintain Siobhan’s memory. This discussion is ongoing.”