Rugby Union: Uttley shown door as RFU sheds 30 jobs

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The Independent Online
ROGER UTTLEY and Don Rutherford, two of the most influential figures in post-war English rugby, were among the big-name fall guys yesterday as Francis Baron, the new chief executive of the Rugby Football Union, ripped through Twickenham like a supercharged Jonah Lomu. Uttley, the England team manager, and Rutherford, the national director of rugby, saw their jobs disappear as Baron completed his first cost-cutting assault on the badged and blazered ranks of RFU officialdom.

Thirty of the union's 191 staff - four directors, 11 managers and 15 administrative staff - were either made redundant or railroaded into early retirement as Baron brought his hard-nosed business approach to bear on what he decided was a flabby administrative structure. Richard Field and Ken Whitehead, respectively director of marketing and director of support services, were also given the heave-ho, while David Fison, the financial director, announced he would leave later this year.

Baron's swingeing cuts were introduced as English rugby politics took another bizarre turn with the news that Bristol, the Allied Dunbar Premiership Two leaders, were planning a takeover bid for London Scottish, the Premiership One team whose finances are nowhere near as healthy as their form.

Bristol are deeply concerned that any new cross-border championship coming into effect next season would leave them outside the top flight, irrespective of whether they qualify for promotion under the now discredited Mayfair Agreement hammered out by the RFU and the leading professional clubs last spring. They see a buy-out of London Scottish as one way, albeit a radical one, of guaranteeing themselves a place at the big boys' table.

Nick de Scossa, the Bristol chief executive, said negotations were at an advanced stage. "It's something we are being forced to consider because of opinions that are being expressed behind the scenes in the negotiations for next season," he said. "We began this season knowing that, under the terms of the Mayfair Agreement, we would go up if we won promotion. As things stand, that will not happen. It is not something we intend to allow."

Back at Twickenham, Baron pointed to a series of debilitating multi-million pound losses as justification for his cuts. "The RFU lost pounds 10.3m in the last two years and our projected loss this year has increased from the pounds 1.4m budgeted to a likely deficit of pounds 2.3m," he said. "There has been a management vacuum here and everyone is going to suffer a degree of pain."

Uttley said: "This is a huge disappointment. Having gone through the mill to sort things out at England level, recent results showed we were beginning to get it right."

Ulster's challenge, page 23