RFU names Ian Ritchie as new chief executive

Ian Ritchie
Ritchie was chief executive of the All England Club

The Rugby Football Union has announced the appointment of Ian Ritchie as its new chief executive.

Former Wimbledon tennis boss Ritchie will be in charge of rebuilding the RFU after England's disappointing showing at this year's World Cup.

"I believe English rugby has a very bright future, culminating in a home World Cup in 2015," said Ritchie.

"I am determined to help rugby create a legacy from the tournament that will benefit the sport for generations."

The RFU has been without a permanent chief executive since John Steele left the governing body in June after nine months in office.

Steele, a former Northampton player and coach, had come under pressure after the RFU's chaotic search for a new elite performance director.

Martyn Thomas, the former RFU chairman, took over but stepped down from the role late last month.

Acting CEO Stephen Brown will revert to his role as chief financial officer when Ritchie takes up his post

Ritchie, who has been the chief executive at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) - which stages Wimbledon - since 2005 and also holds senior non-executive positions with a number of the UK's leading sporting organisations, will now be charged with getting the RFU's internal affairs in order and turning round the fortunes of the England national side.

Last week, England appointed Stuart Lancaster as caretaker coach for the Six Nations, which begins in February, and Ritchie's first major task will be to oversee the appointment of a permanent coach to replace Martin Johnson, who resigned last month after England's disastrous World Cup.

"The opportunity to lead an organisation which I know has so many dedicated, talented people is one I relish," added Ritchie.

"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."

Ian Metcalfe, the RFU board member who led the search for a new chief executive, added: "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 stand-out 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."

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty added: "I would like to congratulate Ian Ritchie on his appointment.

"Ian has led the development of [AELTC] and the Wimbledon Championships with great success and we very much look forward to working with him in his new role."

During Ritchie's six years at the AELTC, a new centre court roof was completed as well as two new show courts, but perhaps his greatest achievement was turning the Wimbledon Championships into one of the most modern in the sport while still retaining the traditions of the grass court event.

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