RFU left reeling as chief executive Steve Brown announces he is stepping down

16 Nov

Rugby Football Union chief executive Steve Brown is stepping down at the end of the year after only 16 months in the role.

Brown ends his seven-year association with the RFU, having replaced Ian Ritchie in September 2017.

Brown’s resignation comes just nine months before the Rugby World Cup

It is understood that Brown had grown weary of the internal politics at the governing body and that the decision to resign was his own.

The RFU has been plunged into turmoil by his departure, which comes nine months out from the World Cup and in the wake of stinging criticism from former chief executive Francis Baron.

Baron produced a report accusing Twickenham of financial mismanagement after 64 redundancies were made during the summer despite record revenues being generated for 2016 and 2017.

The RFU disputes a number of his claims which are based on its published accounts only and he has not worked since departing in 2010.

Brown said: “This has been a very difficult decision for me to make and I informed the RFU board earlier this week that the time is right for me to step down and take some time out.

“I’ve loved my time in rugby and am deeply proud to have made a contribution to a sport I love.

“It has been a fascinating seven-and-a-half years and a great honour to lead the RFU over the last 14 months. I am proud of the people who make up the union.

“I’m sad to leave, but the Union is in good shape, with an excellent leadership team in place.”

Brown declared his rise to chief executive as the “job of a lifetime” upon his appointment only to be ground down by the intrigue at the game’s largest and richest union.

“The RFU staff are very sad. Steve is a popular leader and greatly admired and respected for his decency. He will be missed,” an RFU spokeswoman said.

Director of professional rugby Nigel Melville will act as interim chief executive until a replacement is found.

Baron alleges there has been a cumulative net loss of £46.4million since 2012 and questioned the revised cost of the new East Stand hospitality facility, which rose from £54m to £81m.

Brown said in August that the redundancies were to help offset rising fixed costs against an outlook of plateauing or reduced profit.

He oversaw delivery of the 2015 World Cup on these shores following Debbie Jevans’ resignation and in January awarded England head coach Eddie Jones a contract extension lasting until 2021, dependent on results at Japan 2019.

He has also been involved in negotiations over the new season structure, which was revealed last month.

RFU chairman Andy Cosslett said: “This is a sad day for the union. Steve has made a huge contribution to the RFU during his time here. He has been a pivotal figure during a long period of sustained growth.

“Steve’s tireless work ethic and selfless attitude has won him the respect of all who know him and the game will be extremely sad to see him go.”

The RFU paid tribute to Brown’s work

Rugby Union news: English rugby to introduce in-season breaks for players as part of new Premiership structure

23 Oct

English rugby will introduce in-season breaks for players under a new structure for the next three seasons, the Rugby Football Union have announced.

Beginning in the 2019/20 campaign, the new plans are designed to improve player welfare and protect players during a demanding schedule, which includes the 2019 World Cup and 2021 British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa.

THE RFU have announced a new structure for the next three seasons in the English game

The changes will also introduce a mandatory five-week post-season rest for all players, and will see the Gallagher Premiership season end in late June and summer tours take place in July.

They will also ensure England players play a maximum of 30 full games per season, reduced from 32, and be confined to a limit of 35 match involvements of 20 minutes or more.

Rugby Football Union chief executive Stephen Brown said the new structure was a partnership between the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the Rugby Players’ Association and that it had focussed “on the requirements of player welfare”.

The key announcements include:

  • Guaranteed in-season breaks for players in each of the three seasons.
  • Mandatory five-week post-season rest for all players which includes two weeks’ absolute rest and three weeks’ active rest
  • Minimum 10 weeks off/pre-season for England Senior Elite Player Squad (EPS) players (five weeks rest and five weeks preparation)
  • Minimum 12 weeks between Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final and Round 1 of the following Gallagher Premiership Rugby season
  • Maximum 35 match involvements (>20 minutes) in any one season for all players
  • Maximum 30 full game equivalents (reduced from 32) in any one season for all players
  • Premiership Rugby Cup structure to provide rest weeks for players with the most match time
  • England Senior EPS players to have a mandatory rest week if playing all international matches and more than 65% of total minutes (reduced from 80%) in the Quilter Internationals or Six Nations

In addition:

  • England Rugby World Cup squad rested for the summer Tests in July 2020 unless they have had 20 or fewer match involvements in the 2019-20 season
  • England players on the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour to have a rest week during the 2021 Autumn internationals
  • English Lions’ players to have 10 weeks break
  • Tri-partite panel with an independent chairman to monitor and ensure compliance with the principles and to decide on any individual exceptions
The new structure will allow England international to be at their peak fitness for crucial international games and tournaments

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty said the structure achieved “a number of progressive goals for the English structure over the next three seasons, building in new player management approaches, reducing overlaps and scheduling more of Gallagher Premiership Rugby for the better weather conditions of spring and early summer”.

RPA chief executive Damian Hopley said: “It is fundamental that players had their say in the shaping of this new season structure” and added that the new agreement “gives players guaranteed in-season breaks for the first time and reduces playing thresholds”.

Tottenham Hotspur stadium latest: RFU reject plans to let Twickenham host Premier League clash with Manchester City

15 Aug

The Rugby Football Union is not interested in hosting Tottenham’s home Premier League clash against Manchester City at Twickenham.

The ground, which is known as the home of English rugby was shortlisted as a potential venue for the match due to construction delays at the new White Hart Lane and because Wembley, Spurs’ temporary home, is unavailable on October 28.

Spurs will play their home games at Wembley until their new stadium is ready

However, the Daily Mail claims the RFU are not considering any approach for the game to happen at Twickenham as officials are determined to preserve the stadium’s status as a rugby-only venue.

Spurs have even explored the possibility of postponing their home clash against the Premier League champions amid concerns of further stadium delays.

They have already deferred the proposed opening date of the £850million project for the visit of Liverpool on September 15 as there are problems with the safety systems.

The game against the Reds as well as Spurs’ following home fixture against Cardiff on October 6 will take place at Wembley, as will the NFL clash between Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks, which was due to take place at the new White Hart Lane on October 14.T

Spurs will not have the option of using Wembley if their new ground is not ready for the visit of Pep Guardiola’s side as the NFL have booked the national stadium for the clash between Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars.

The most viable option appears to be to rearrange the date of the fixture

The club has been in discussions with Premier League officials over how to resolve the issue.

To make matters worse, it’s unlikely the Premier League would sanction a reversal in fixtures and let the game happen at the Etihad Stadium as it would raise concerns over the integrity of the competition.

It would lead to the Citizens playing four of their final five games of the league season away from home – which would put them at a clear disadvantage and the Premier League are thus unwilling to put them in that position.

A switch would also see Spurs play four consecutive top-flight games at home in April which could cause logistical problems.

RFU chief executive wants England players to ‘behave like footballers’ after World Cup success

1 Aug

Rugby players should look to footballers for advice on how to be role models, according to the RFU’s chief executive.

Steve Brown praised the job done by England football team boss Gareth Southgate at the World Cup in Russia and called on his counterpart Eddie Jones to institute a similar culture.

Brown has been RFU CEO since September 2017

Southgate has been hailed around the world for bringing a positive atmosphere to the dressing room as he led England to a first football World Cup semi-final since 1990.

Conversely, the rugby team have lost five of their last six tests and Jones could face the sack if results do not improve in the upcoming autumn internationals.

Brown said: “I was impressed by the whole situation. Southgate did a brilliant job and England were fantastic, representing our nation brilliantly.

“What impressed me most was the attitude and culture of the squad. “There was a humility and modesty about the footballers.

There were calls for Southgate to be knighted after taking England to the final four in Russia

“They all wanted to win and were planning to do their best, which they did, but there was something nice about the attitude of the players.

“One key thing I liked about it was that many of the players were good role models for the sport.

“If you were a young kid watching it, you would be impressed by it.

“That is great for football and that is what we need to do and I think we do already.”

The football team’s cohesion was crucial to their progress at the World Cup
Jones is under pressure after losing five of his last six matches, including three defeats in the 2018 Six Nations

England’s recent performances at Rugby World Cups are a concern after reaching back-to-back finals in 2003 and 2007.

A disappointing quarter-final defeat to France in 2011 was followed by a complete capitulation on home soil four years later, losing to Wales and Australia at Twickenham as they became the first hosts to be knocked out in the group stages.

Jones, enduring a rocky 2018 after winning 24 of his first 25 matches in charge, will speak with Southgate ahead of the autumn fixtures.

The Australian coach faces South Africa, two former sides Japan and Australia and a huge test against world champions New Zealand.

England’s 2015 World Cup disaster spelled the end for Jones’ predecessor, Stuart Lancaster

Brown continued: “Southgate did a brilliant job and England were fantastic – representing our nation brilliantly.

“They deserve all the compliments they’ve had.

“If there are lessons to be learned and discussions to be had, I’m sure Eddie will have those. He knows Southgate pretty well.”

“I’d like to inspire the nation as much as the football guys did as we head into the 2019 World Cup.”

England head coach Eddie Jones backed by RFU despite Test series defeat in South Africa

18 Jun

England head coach Eddie Jones came out fighting after being backed by the Rugby Football Union following their Test series defeat to South Africa.

Eddie Jones has received the backing of the RFU

Saturday’s 23-12 loss in Bloemfontein was the Red Rose’s fifth Test defeat in a row.

Jones has come under mounting pressure during his side’s summer tour, but insisted he is still passionate about taking the team forward.

“I don’t need any dialogue with the RFU,” Jones told Sky Sports News.

“All I need to do is my job and I do my job as well as I can every day.

“I love the team. I love coaching the team. I’m excited about where we’re going to go.

“I realise this is a tough time and that our fans and supporters will be disappointed, but all I can assure you is we’re doing everything we can, every minute of the day, to turn this team around.”

England’s tour captain Owen Farrell reacts after Saturday’s defeat to South Africa

Jones said ill-discipline and a lack of “emotional control” had undermined his side’s chances during both Test defeats to South Africa.

“We’ve lacked some discipline,” he said. “I think the penalty count is 30-14 for the tour so far and we haven’t taken opportunities.

“We’ve missed two or three clear try-scoring opportunities and we just lack a bit of emotional control in the side, which is a hallmark of a young team.”

England had not lost five successive Test matches since 2014 before Saturday’s defeat, but Jones insists his players will learn from the experience.

“I’ve been in many of these (situations) and I knew it was always going to come for England,” he added. “You’re always going to have a difficult run.

“Every team I’ve been in that’s been successful, we’ve had a difficult run like this. Sometimes you need these periods to learn from, to cement those errors as things you don’t want to do again.

We’re getting some hard lessons at the moment.”