A former chief executive of Zurich Insurance Group for Europe, Middle East and Africa has been appointed as the new independent chair of Welsh rugby’s professional rugby board (PRB).
Amanda Blanc, a senior businesswoman who has also been group chief executive of AXA UK, PPP & Ireland during a distinguished 30-year career, was previously named woman of achievement by Women in the City and twice voted the UK Insurer CEO’s CEO of the year (2013 and 2015), as well as featuring on the 2019 list of Yahoo Finance’s 100 women executives.
Originally from Treherbert in the Rhondda Fawr valley, she automatically joins the Welsh Rugby Union Board (WRU) by virtue of her position as the chair of the PRB, succeeding David Lovett. “A passion for Wales, for Welsh rugby and the communities that the game serves around the country has brought me to this role and I am relishing the challenge ahead,” said Blanc.
“The PRB obviously has a vital and integral role to play, not only in safeguarding the future of our national game, but also ensuring that it thrives at a time of huge potential change and it will be a great pleasure to do all that I can to help facilitate its aims and ambitions.
“I’m looking forward to bringing my corporate board experience to the WRU and PRB. Having been used to the complexities involved in running large organisations I know that this will be invaluable in helping Welsh rugby strive towards achieving greater success.”
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The PRB is a gathering of representatives from each of the five professional entities in Welsh rugby and consists of the four regional chairmen, Alun Jones (Cardiff Blues), David Buttress (Dragons), Rob Davies (Ospreys) and Nigel Short (Scarlets), WRU CEO Martyn Phillips, WRU finance director Steve Phillips and two independent members (one of whom is chair – this position is to be filled by Blanc after approval by WRU board on Thursday – with another independent member to be recruited).
It has operated as a sub-board of the WRU since a modernised governance structure was passed by its members, clubs and districts at its AGM in October 2018 and its stated general approach is to ensure all five entities have equal opportunity for success.
Its most significant achievement to date has been to establish a new professional rugby agreement (PRA) for the professional game in Wales, which has led to a doubling in direct funding by the WRU from approximately £10million to around £20m per annum, excluding competition income.
"My boy was playing under-11s rugby and we could barely get nine or ten players to come out and play whereas with football they were scratching two sides together." @ShaneWilliams11 talks regional rugby decline with @heagneyl ???https://t.co/opEhls2mH2
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Blanc becomes the third female board member of the WRU, joining Liza Burgess – who became the first woman to be elected to the board at the AGM in October 2019 – and non-executive director Aileen Richards, who has been in place since her appointment in 2015.
“This is a hugely significant appointment for the PRB, but one which will also have a direct and positive impact on the WRU board,” said Richards. “To attract someone of Amanda’s experience shows the high esteem in which Welsh rugby is held around the world and I’m greatly looking forward to working with her in the best interests of our national game in the years ahead.”
— Amanda Blanc (@Amandas_Shoes) December 20, 2019
Blanc has wide-ranging experience in the boardroom having chaired many organisations, subsidiaries and committees and sat on various regulated boards across Europe. “Amanda is an important addition to both the WRU Board and the PRB, not least because she comes with a skillset and high level of business experience in the financial sector unrivalled elsewhere,” said WRU chairman Gareth Davies.
“And to have another female voice in a boardroom which has been a traditionally male environment is a hugely welcome by-product of securing the services of such a high calibre business-woman. Chairing PRB meetings is not an easy task, with five separate entities determined to pull in the same direction and speak with one voice off the pitch, but with necessarily conflicting agendas on it.
“It is widely known that these are changing times for the world game, with talk of new structures and potential new ownership rife and it will be part of Amanda’s challenge to help ensure the PRB and Welsh rugby not only keeps pace but takes its place, rightly, at the forefront of imminent progress.”
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