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Francis Baron announces succession plans

20 November 2009

  • RFU CEO announces intention to retire after 11 years in post
  • Outgoing CEO says 2010 provides a “natural break point”
Francis Baron, the RFU Chief Executive

Photo: Getty Images

Francis Baron OBE, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) has announced his intention to retire from the role at the next Annual General Meeting of the Union in July 2010. Francis joined the RFU in October 1998 and has shepherded the RFU through the changing landscape of rugby for over 11 years.

Francis Baron said, "I will be entering my 65th year next year and I felt it was the right time to set my retirement date to enable an orderly transition to my successor. It will enable him or her a full year in office prior to a change in the Chairmanship of the RFU in 2011 and the World Cup in New Zealand later that year together with ensuring senior management continuity through a period of change.

"July 2010 also provides a natural break point for me and not just because it is the end of the season. All elements of the South Stand re-development project will have been completed by then and having secured the World Cup for England in 2015, the establishment of the 2015 operating company will need to commence in earnest in the following season. Clearly my successor should lead on this and have a blank sheet of paper to work with.

"By July I will have had nearly 12 memorable years with many high points and will have visited hundreds of clubs all over the country and met many outstanding volunteers who do so much to run the Community game. I am pleased I will be passing on to my successor a financially strong Union with a strong management team implementing a clear eight year Strategic Plan supported by long term agreements with all our key commercial partners - Sky, Nike, O2, Investec, Compass, Marriott and Virgin."

Francis Baron, the RFU Chief Executive

Photo: Getty Images

Exceptional growth

During his tenure he has turned round the RFU commercially and financially and today the net worth of the organisation stands at £150m with a turnover in the past year of £119m with a net profit of £9m compared to losses when he arrived of £10m. As a result RFU investment in the game at both Community and Elite levels has reached record levels. On the field the England team won a Rugby World Cup in 2003 and reached another final in 2007. He has overseen an exceptional growth in the grassroots game with adult participation overall up 12% since 2003 and in particular the mini and junior rugby up 49% in the same period.

Chief among his off field achievements has been the re-development of the Southern end of the Stadium which will be finally completed in December 2009. Today the complex comprises 80,000 square feet of conference and event space, a 4 star Marriott hotel, a concert venue, a Virgin Active Classic Health club, a Rugby Store and the new RFU corporate offices.

John Owen, president of the RFU, commented, "I would like to thank Francis for his outstanding contribution to the RFU in nearly 12 years as CEO. I have had the privilege of working with Francis since the day he arrived at the RFU, and have served with him on the Management Board since 2001, and have witnessed the total commitment he has given to his job. When it would have been easier to sit in Twickenham and manage the game from there he got out to the grassroots game.

"I have lost count of the clubs he and I have visited together and where he has shown his passion and intelligence in helping grow the game. The advent of professionalism had the potential to blow the game off course but Francis has always kept a firm hand on the tiller and the position that rugby in England finds itself today is entirely thanks to his unstinting hard work and focus."

Lasting legacy

The RFU Management Board has been authorised by the RFU Council to lead the search for Francis' successor and will cast the net widely in search of candidates able to bring the right experience and mix of skills to the complex role.

Martyn Thomas, chairman of the Management Board, added, "I have worked closely with Francis since my election as Chairman in 2005. His achievements are many and his legacy will be everlasting with the financial transformation of the Union and the South Stand complex and hotel set to play a major role in the RFU over the coming years. None of it would have been possible without his vision and drive. I would also like to thank him for leading the executive team that delivered our successful bid for RWC 2015. It is typical of Francis' approach that he had the foresight to take a difficult decision for him personally but one that was in the best long term interests of the RFU."

Francis Baron will be available to support the Union in a non- executive capacity should that be required as well as looking for other non-executive director roles.