England Rugby
Ritchie named as RFU's new chief executive
ESPNscrum Staff
December 14, 2011
Ian Ritchie, chief executive of The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club taks to the media, London, England, April 19, 2011
Ian Ritchie will move to Twickenham after spending six years as chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. © Getty Images

The Rugby Football Union has announced the appointment of Ian Ritchie as their new chief executive.

The 58-year-old Ritchie will take up the Twickenham hotseat after spending six years as chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club - the home of the Wimbledon Championships. English rugby's governing body has been without a permanent chief executive since John Steele's departure in June, just nine months after he took office. The RFU's chief financial officer Stephen Brown, who stepped in to replace Martyn Thomas as acting chief executive late last month, will continue in the role until Ritchie has served his notice at the AELTC.

Ritchie, a former television and news agency executive, will take over an organisation which has been in a state of managerial turmoil since Steele's sudden departure, when the board cited a loss of trust in his leadership. The fallout from his brief tenure continues to blight the RFU with Ritchie set to be tasked with leading the Union out of the darkest chapter in its history.

Steele was ousted just nine months after joining from UK Sport and the aftershocks of his departure were still being felt at Twickenham as recently as two weeks ago. Thomas, who is alleged by a former colleague to have said "it was him or me" after Steele's exit, was criticised for his role in the saga but threatened Judge Jeff Blackett with legal action if the report was published.

Blackett, the RFU's disciplinary officer, then claimed he had enough evidence to bring a disrepute charge against Thomas, who was also facing a grass-roots rebellion. Thomas, who survived two votes of no confidence, stood down two weeks ago after being cleared of misconduct by an external review, conducted by Charles Flint QC.

Amidst all the chaos at executive level, England crashed out of the World Cup after a quarter-final defeat to France ended a campaign dogged by controversy and following the departure Martin Johnson, an interim England coaching team headed by Stuart Lancaster has been appointed for the Six Nations.

"I am very proud to be taking up the role of chief executive at the RFU and am excited about the chance to further develop the potential that the RFU and the game offers," said Ritchie. "The opportunity to lead an organisation which I know has so many dedicated, talented people is one I relish.

"I believe English rugby has a very bright future, culminating in a once in a lifetime home World Cup in 2015. I am determined to help rugby create a legacy from the tournament that will benefit the sport for generations to come. The RFU has great commercial partners and a very sound financial base, underpinning the development of rugby union at grassroots and elite level.

"The decision to leave the AELTC was a difficult one," added Ritchie, who was recently linked with a move to the ATP Tour. "I have been fortunate to work for a wonderful organisation and am extremely proud of what it has achieved over the past few years. I know that Wimbledon will continue to go from strength to strength with its exceptional leadership and fantastic management and staff."

The RFU undertook a comprehensive search for Steele's permanent successor and concluded that Ritchie offered "an outstanding mix of business experience, leadership skills and the innate understanding of the sporting world".

Ritchie has been chief executive at Wimbledon since 2005 and also holds senior non-executive positions with a number of the UK's leading sporting organisations. In 2004, Ritchie was appointed to the Football League board as its first independent director and has been their representative on the Football Association council since 2008. Ritchie is a director of Wembley Stadium and chairman of the Football League's commercial committee and its wholly owned subsidiary FL interactive.

Ian Metcalfe, the RFU board member who led the recruitment, said: "A very strong field of candidates applied for this post, which clearly reflected the high level of interest. There was an excellent shortlist and we are confident that we have the very best person for the role of CEO to take the RFU and the game in England to the next stage of its development.

"Ian clearly demonstrated the required knowledge and capabilities across a broad range of areas. He was the standout candidate with his combination of business acumen, leadership qualities and background in sports administration. We could not have wished for a better candidate who is so highly respected across sport and the business sectors."

Philip Brook, chairman of the All England Club, said: "We will be sorry to lose Ian and, in thanking him for his outstanding contribution to Wimbledon, we wish him every success at the RFU. The search for a successor will start immediately and in the meantime it is very much business as usual at Wimbledon. The experience and professionalism of our team is such that we can look forward with complete confidence to maintaining Wimbledon as one of the world's leading sporting events."

Ritchie's appointment was also welcomed by Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty who commented: "On behalf of Premiership Rugby and its Clubs, I would like to congratulate Ian Ritchie on his appointment. Ian has led the development of The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (AELTC) and the Wimbledon Championships with great success and we very much look forward to working with him in his new role."

Ian Ritchie CV Highlights:
2005-2011 The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, CEO
2008-current Football League Representative on the FA Council
2008-current Director of Wembley Stadium
2004-current Independent Director of the Football League
2000-2005 Associated Press, Vice President Global Business
1998-2000 Middle East Broadcasting Ltd, CEO
1997-1998 Russell Reynolds, Partner
1996-1997 Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd, CEO
1994-1996 London News Network
1993-1994 Central TV
1992-1993 Yorkshire Tyne-Tees TV
1980-1988 Granada TV

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