RFU appoint Ian Ritchie as chief executive


The Rugby Football Union have appointed Ian Ritchie as their new chief executive.

Ritchie will move to Twickenham after spending six years as chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

The RFU have 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 replaced Martyn Thomas as acting chief executive late last month, will continue in the role until Ritchie has served his notice at Wimbledon.

Ritchie 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 fall-out from that episode was poisonous, damaging and expensive but Ritchie's appointment is the latest step towards English rugby curing itself of its ills.

The RFU recently posted record profits and Ritchie's task will be to maximise the impact of hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup on home soil.

"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," Ritchie said.

"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. 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."

Premiership Rugby welcomed the RFU's decision. The clubs' chief executive Mark McCafferty said: "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."