One chapter ends, another begins
11 July 2011
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It was a long weekend of meetings at Twickenham culminating in the AGM on Sunday afternoon. Before that the RFU Council met at 8am to debate Judge Jeff Blackett’s review into the departure of CEO John Steele. You can read the press release by clicking this link.
The review was emailed to Council members at 5pm on Friday which limited the time we had to digest its contents, and a group of about 35 of us met on Saturday night to discuss it and speculate how we thought the next morning’s meeting would pan out. The meeting broke up after midnight.
We gathered at 8am at Twickenham and Jeff Blackett presented a summary of his findings and a very long debate ensued causing the start of the AGM to be delayed from 11am to 12:30pm. I can’t go into the detail of the discussion although there seems to be plenty about it in the press, some accurate and some not. The headlines as detailed in the RFU press release are:
- Martyn Thomas withdrew his nomination for Chairman of the Board at the AGM creating a ‘casual vacancy’
- Council appointed Paul Murphy, Senior Vice President and Member for Oxfordshire, to be interim Chairman. Murphy was previously an RFU Board member and Chairman of Governance
- A Special General Meeting will be convened as soon as possible to elect a new Chairman
- The whole Board was given a vote of confidence by Council and will continue in their roles
- Martyn Thomas continuing as Acting CEO was endorsed by Council
- Other recommendations on governance and confidentiality will be dealt with at future meetings
I can give some rationale behind these decisions:
- Martyn had been appointed Acting CEO by the Board a couple of weeks previously, but it was not appropriate that he was both CEO and Chairman, so Martyn made it clear that he was withdrawing his nomination to be elected Chairman at the AGM.
- There a precedent that the President can take over as an interim Chairman. However, the new President, Willie Wildash, would be busy with World Cup duties for much of September and October so the Senior Vice-President will be interim Chairman instead. Paul Murphy is well qualified for the role.
- A Special General Meeting will elect a new Chairman. This will be a crucial appointment and one that will need careful thought. We may not be able to arrange a meeting before the start of the Rugby World Cup so the meeting might not be until late October.
- Although the Board won a vote of confidence, I should point out that two of the non-executive Board members have reached the end of their period of tenure and they will be replaced by two new Board members who have not been involved in any of the decisions of the past few months. This also applies to the interim Chairman Paul Murphy and the incoming President Willie Wildash so there are four new faces untainted by recent events.
- Martyn Thomas carrying on as Acting CEO is the right thing for the game at this time. We need some continuity and Martyn’s experience and contacts both in England and internationally is crucial while a new CEO is recruited, a process that will take up to six months and possibly longer. Martyn will continue to represent the RFU on the IRB and will be a key part of the organisation that will run the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
Quite correctly there is a lot that must remain confidential about the meeting but a summary will be published in due course.
RFU President Willie Wildash
The RFU now has to look forward and find a Chairman and Chief Executive to lead it as we build towards the 2015 World Cup. The past few months have been very difficult for the whole organisation and in particular its staff, although the England team won’t have been affected. Let’s make sure we are right behind them in New Zealand.
At the AGM Willie Wildash, a thoroughly decent and honourable man, became the 103rd President of the RFU. He paid tribute to the staff who have kept working through these difficult past couple of months, and he told us that the theme of his year of office would be: Choose Rugby, Have Fun and make Friends for Life.
I couldn’t agree more.