English Rugby
Blackett review reveals widespread distrust - Report
ESPNscrum Staff
July 17, 2011

Judge Jeff Blackett's review into the dismissal of former Rugby Football Union (RFU) chief executive John Steele reportedly revealed a complete breakdown of trust within the English game's governing body.

Blackett headed a five-man panel charged with investigating the circumstances surrounding Steele's sacking by the RFU Management Board last month. He subsequently presented a 52-page investigation of the affair to the RFU last Sunday that, according to The Sunday Telegraph, highlighted alarming levels of distrust and which concluded that Steele should not have been dismissed at the June 9 board meeting.

Blackett allegedly found that during the RFU's shambolic pursuit of a new performance director, Steele's relationship with former chairman Martyn Thomas completely collapsed. Thomas was forced to step down from his post in the wake of the review - although he will continues as acting chief executive until a permanent appointment is made. Thomas will also continue as chairman of Rugby World Cup 2015 - which will be staged in England - and as an RFU representative on the International Rugby Board.

The exact details of Blackett's review, based on 66 interviews and and 189 pieces of documentary evidence, are yet to be published following a legal intervention by Thomas' lawyers who threatened to serve a writ for defamation, although this has since been withdrawn.

The newspaper goes on to quote a number of damning findings from the review:

- The breakdown in trust and lack of confidentiality at the top of the RFU led to a situation in which: "John Steele did not trust the board. Council members did not trust the board; staff did not trust the management of the union and feared for their jobs"

- Sponsors, potential applicants and people of influence within and outside of the game "do not trust the RFU to comply with obligations of confidentiality" but although this has caused "reputational damage," the board "closed their eyes" to the problem.

- There was "inappropriate briefing to the press that Steele's position was under threat" but that those concerns were not discussed with Steele who was given "no indication" that his position was in jeopardy ahead of the meeting.

- The board "may not have been thinking clearly" when it made its decision to sack Steele in the early hours of the following morning after a four-hour meeting and should have delayed their decision until they had more fully investigated criticisms of Steele as they may have been "unsubstantiated or exaggerated"

The newspaper asked the RFU for clarification on the matter but were told no comment would be made.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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