Rugby

RFU appoints British Olympic boss as new CEO

2019-02-19 20:01
Bill Sweeney
Bill Sweeney (englandrugby.com)

London - Bill Sweeney has been appointed as the new chief executive of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the English game's governing body announced Tuesday.

British Olympic Association (BOA) chief executive Sweeney replaces Steve Brown who left Twickenham in November after fewer than 15 months in the equivalent RFU role.

Former England captain and USA Rugby chief executive Nigel Melville will continue as the RFU's interim chief executive until Sweeney takes up his new post, with a start date yet to be agreed.

Sweeney, who played rugby for London's Rosslyn Park club, gained corporate management experience with Shell, Mars and Unilever. He later worked for leading sports manufacturers Adidas and Puma before joining the BOA in 2013.

He said a move to the RFU was the only reason he would have left the BOA.

"I leave behind a very strong British Olympic Association, both financially and in readiness for Tokyo 2020," said Sweeney in an RFU statement.

"This is the only opportunity that I would have left the BOA for. From the grassroots game to our England teams, rugby's values and opportunities are very special," he added.

"I am passionate about the game and it is an honour to be joining the RFU team."

Meanwhile RFU chairperson Andy Cosslett said: "We are delighted to announce Bill's appointment as CEO.

"He brings a rare combination of experience from the worlds of blue chip business and elite sport and has a tremendous track record in both."

The departure of Brown, who had a variety of RFU roles since arriving at Twickenham in 2011, came after one of his predecessors launched a withering attack on the state of the English governing body's finances.

In August, it emerged that Francis Baron, whose 12-year period as chief executive ended in 2010, had produced a highly critical report based on his analysis of the RFU's published accounts dating back to 2000, in which he detailed a cumulative net loss of £46.4 million since 2012.

Despite generating record revenues of £360 million for 2016 and 2017, the RFU has doubled its loan facility to £100 million over the past year.

But the RFU disputed Brown's analysis, saying it was on a "sound financial footing".

As well as the financial side of the job, Sweeney will also have to lead the RFU's contribution to the ongoing and thorny debate over a revised global calendar following this year's World Cup in Japan.

The RFU, the wealthiest of all the game's national governing bodies, has long attracted envious glances from rival countries for the income it generates on the back of international matches at Twickenham, where sell-out crowds of more than 80 000 are commonplace.

On the field, England - who lost five Tests in a row last year - are now top of the Six Nations table heading into this weekend's potential title-decider against Wales in Cardiff.

 

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