RFU Gets CEO

You want me to explain to someone what it is I do?

The Mole is a big fan of Newstalk’s Off the Ball, which brings Dexy’s to the airwaves on a regular basis to discuss “ebb and flow of psychic energy” and other phantasmagorical commentary that you can only see properly on the radio.

However, his favourite slot is “Administrator of the Week” where Eoin and Murph go upstairs to reward the power brokers, blazers and governors of the games. Sure, on the pitch action packs them in to the stadium, sells pay per view and establishes heroes but it’s often the off the pitch wheeling, dealing and leading that makes an organisation.

Sport’s back room boys now have their own movie, where Brad Pitt plays a general manager with “the good face” who brings sabermetrics from the spare bedroom to the Major League bullpen. The zeitgeist-chronicling Michael Lewis wrote the story of Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, bringing to prominence the work done by sport’s front office.

In the immediate aftermath of the retirement of their own zeitgeist definer, English rugby have appointed a new chief executive who will be in charge of the union in the lead up to, and hosting of, the next World Cup. The role has been changed so that the supremo (coach/manager/svengali?) of the English national team will report directly to him. Many of the same cast remain however so new man Ian Ritchie gets to bed down in what appears to be a nest of vipers. Teflon Don Rob Andrew remains in the building in another ill-defined role.

Leeds United fan Ritchie’s background is as a media man, where he spent the majority of his career. He was a board member at West Ham, so working with inept governance won’t be a new experience, and most recently provided a steady hand at the genteel surrounds of the All England Club. Wimbledon went from strength to strength under Ritchie’s watch with the redevelopment of Centre Court and Court Number 1 and a more attractive style of play pervasive during what was a Golden Age of grass court tennis. He isn’t a rugby man but his media nous and experience running an international sports organisation might be what the RFU requires.

English rugby is something of a slumbering giant. Most of its teams are composed of slumbering giants. Woodward brought executive experience and vision to bear at headquarters and the burghers of the shires never quite recovered. If Ritchie does his job, the irksome Swing Low will be getting a good airing during the next four years.

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