David Moffett, the chief executive of Australia's National Rugby League, is likely to become the new head of Sport England this week. The Doncaster-born administrator, who was on the short list of the Football Association for its own top job before Adam Crozier was appointed, has been offered the post and will announce his move this week, according to reports in Australia.
Richard Caborn, the sports minister, has been looking for a new chief executive for Sport England since Derek Casey resigned in June. Caborn said at the time that he intended to overhaul the "sloppy" structure of English sport by appointing a "strategic thinker" to take over. Although Moffett is described by those who have dealt with him as quiet and unassuming, his reputation has been built on a quiet efficiency and an ability to get jobs – particularly administrative restructuring – done with a minimum of fuss.
Sport England, formerly the Sports Council, is responsible for spending around £300m a year, much of it Lottery money, on everything from grass-roots sports to funding for élite athletes and major projects such as a new national stadium. Moffett's main role will be to restructure the organisation, cutting out some of its perceived bureaucracy, and overseeing a devolution of spending decisions to the regions.
Although Casey earned a salary of £80,000 a year, Caborn made it clear that he would offer a much higher sum to his successor in the hope of attracting someone of "the very highest quality". It is thought that the new chief executive will earn upwards of £150,000 a year.
Moffett has refused to comment on the situation at the weekend, saying he would not enter into any speculation. "If and when I have something to say I will say it," he said. "I'll leave it to others to speculate."
An unnamed member of the NRL board told a Sydney newspaper: "This news is not totally unexpected. David has done a good job for two years, but I expect we will be advertising for a new chief executive very soon and we would hope to name a replacement before Christmas."
The NRL chairman Malcolm Noad denied Moffett had already submitted his resignation, but the pair will meet tomorrow for a pre-arranged meeting.
Born in England, but brought up in Kenya and East Africa before settling in Brisbane, Moffett really made his name in sports administration as the chief of the New Zealand Rugby Union, in which capacity he once infamously described rugby league as "five tackles and a kick".
A former union player whose career was cut short by a serious knee injury, he later became a referee and then administrator, forcing through a series of restructuring measures. The growth of Super 10 and Super 12 did most to cast him in a high-profile role on the world stage.
That made it a surprise appointment when he became chief executive of the NRL in 1999. In that admittedly difficult role, his record has been mixed. Although league remains the premier code in the eastern states of Australia, it finds itself under increasing pressure at international level from rugby union and football. Domestically, it has finished the season in good health, with big crowds and compelling contests during the NRL's play-off series.
Moffett came close to leaving the NRL earlier this year when his plans to streamline the game in Australia could not be administered by the NRL. His dissatisfaction with the NRL was fuelled even further last season when he was pressured by the NRL into cancelling a two-week holiday to France. In a nice twist he is believed to have been offered the Sport England post last month while on holiday in Europe.
The mid-season break was intended to fulfil another of his sporting enthusiasms by following the Tour de France. After initially defying the outcry, he eventually cancelled the trip and is thought to have been taken aback by the reaction. He is expected to formally submit his resignation to the NRL tomorrow.Reuse content