RFU council members, who sparked a civil war, felt a leadership challenge could not wait until after the World Cup.
Nearly half of the governing body’s board members signed a letter directly challenging the leadership of CEO Bill Sweeney and President Tom Ilube. Both now find themselves embroiled in a battle to safeguard their futures – and meanwhile, they should focus on the English campaign.
Ilube called the letter and its timing “deeply disappointing”, but the rebels reportedly felt there could be no delay in raising their concerns. The letter amounts to a call for censure of Sweeney and Ilube, but the two top bosses are expected to continue to try to weather the storm.
However, opinions are mixed on the RFU’s leadership and direction in the rest of the council, and Sweeney and Ilube will look to take advantage of this to stabilize their positions.
The letter, sent on September 11 to RFU president Rob Briers, said: “If the current situation persists, there is a significant risk to the future of the Union, the way it operates and its ability to invest, to maintain and develop. community, semi-professional and professional games. As such, inaction will further call into question the trust we have in the senior management of the RFU.
“While the impact of Covid cannot be underestimated, nor the potential impact of the current difficult economic climate, recent forecasts show that the RFU (are) likely to suffer a substantial loss in all but one year over the next nine over the next few years, equating 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 would also be held accountable. RFU board appears to be violating one of the key objectives of the Union.”
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 the council is deeply disappointing,” he said. “It was sent by email on the eve of the World Cup, when the match was supposed to be focused on supporting the England team.”