RFU leadership challenge threatens to derail England’s Rugby World Cup campaign

Director General Sweeney and President Ilube have been accused of poor leadership by almost half of the RFU council.

A letter signed by 30 of the council’s 65 members and sent to the RFU board on the eve of the World Cup called into question the leadership of Sweeney and Ilube, particularly in relation to anticipated financial losses.

Ilube described the letter and its timing as “deeply disappointing”, with the RFU expecting to focus fully on England’s World Cup campaign.

England beat Argentina 27-10 in their World Cup opener and will face Japan in Nice on Sunday in their second Pool D match.

Sweeney and Ilube will now fight for their futures, with concern having persisted behind the scenes at the RFU for months.

Sweeney nearly faced a vote of no confidence from grassroots clubs in January, after the RFU mishandled communication over proposed tackle height reductions.

The RFU boss was also previously criticized for allowing Eddie Jones’ tenure in England to drag on until the end of 2022 despite several years of poor results and performances.

Sweeney then opted to fire Jones in December, with Steve Borthwick installed but with just nine games to prepare for the World Cup.

The RFU council members’ letter to the board amounts to a call for censure against Sweeney and Ilube, but the two top bosses are expected to continue to weather this storm.

However, mixed views on the direction and direct leadership of the RFU are shared across the rest of the council, and current leaders will seek to seize on this to stabilize their positions.

“If the current situation persists, there is a significant risk to the future of the union, its mode of operation and its ability to invest, support and develop the community, semi-professional and professional games,” we can read in the letter. sent to RFU President Rob Briers and dated 11 September.

“As such, inaction will further call into question the trust we place in senior leaders at the RFU.

“While the impact of Covid-19 cannot be underestimated, nor the potential impact of the current difficult economic climate, recent forecasts show that the RFU is likely to suffer a substantial loss in all but one year over the next nine years. over the next few years, equivalent to £161 million. .

“This represents an existential threat to our game. Few private, public, or third-party organizations would survive such levels of continued losses, and their boards of directors would also be held accountable. The RFU board appears to be violating one of the union’s key objectives.

President Ilube responded with a statement revealing his dissatisfaction both with the timing of the letter and calling for these concerns to be discussed at an emergency meeting before the next RFU council meeting.

“The resolution proposed to council regarding the governance and operation of the Rugby Football Union is deeply disappointing,” Ilube said.

“It was sent by email on the eve of the opening of the Rugby World Cup, when the match was supposed to be focused on supporting the England team.

“It also comes as important discussions regarding the partnership for the professional game take place, consultation is underway on investment in the community game of the future, as well as meetings with World Rugby and international unions regarding the structure of the World Calendar and the Nations Cup, in which the RFU plays a key influential role.

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