Bill Sweeney will begin his role as the Rugby Football Union’s new chief executive on Thursday. It was revealed in February that Sweeney is to replace Steve Brown, who announced his shock resignation late last year, and has since been negotiating his release from his post at the British Olympic Association.
The RFU has confirmed that he officially starts this week and his arrival will mean Nigel Melville, acting chief executive since Brown’s departure, will resume as Twickenham’s director of professional rugby.
A number of pressing concerns face Sweeney, among them clarifying the future of Eddie Jones and overseeing a succession plan for the eventual departure of England’s head coach.
Melville is responsible for identifying and recruiting Jones’ replacement but the process is shrouded in confusion as this autumn’s World Cup looms.
Every bit as pressing are the RFU’s financial difficulties that have forced 62 redundancies and dealing with the Gallagher Premiership clubs, who have been emboldened by an injection of funds from private equity.
BREAKING | Bill Sweeney appointed as new CEO of the RFU ?
— England Rugby (@EnglandRugby) February 19, 2019
It was November when Brown quite after just 15 months in the role. The union had faced challenging financial times during his brief tenure, with the RFU posting losses of £30.9million for the last financial year.
There was also talk of reducing the match fees paid to England players, whilst the renovation of the East Stand at Twickenham, which was completed last year, ended up £26m over budget, at a total cost of close to £80m.
Sweeney had been at the BOA since 2013, after leaving his role as head of global business development at Puma. His role at the BOA saw him oversee sporting, commercial, brand and communications departments, as well as being in overall charge of the BOA’s preparation for the summer and winter Olympics.
Speaking on the hire in February, RFU chairman Andy Cosslett said: “We’re delighted to announce Bill’s appointment as CEO. He brings a rare combination of experience from the worlds of blue chip business and elite sport and has a tremendous track record in both. His passion for the game is deep rooted and this will stand him in very good stead.”
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