Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

RFU could face new crisis

RFU headquarters

The Rugby Football Union's 58-man council gathered at Twickenham on Sunday morning for a breakfast meeting which could plunge the governing body into fresh turmoil.

The RFU's disciplinary officer Judge Jeff Blackett was publishing his internal review into the way John Steele was ousted from his post as chief executive last month.

It is believed that Blackett's 52-page report recommends that chairman Martyn Thomas and the majority of the board stand down. Blackett led a five-man review panel at the request of the council and is understood to be damning in his criticism of the RFU's governance.

The council must decide whether to act on Blackett's recommendations and leave the RFU rudderless - under the leadership of president Richard Appleby and a new skeleton board - just seven weeks before the World Cup.

A vote of no confidence in Thomas and the board would require a two-thirds majority.

Thomas faced down rumblings of a no-confidence vote at the last council meeting, which was held just hours after Steele's departure had been confirmed in a late-night coup, and he took over as acting chief executive.

At the same meeting, Blackett was commissioned by the council to compile a report into the process of Steele's hiring and firing and covering wider governance issues at the RFU.

Steele was ousted after just nine months in the job after losing the confidence of Thomas and the board. Central to Steele's downfall was the RFU's botched attempts at recruiting a performance director.

Chaired by Blackett, the review panel also included two members of the RFU council in Geraint Ashton-Jones and Malcolm Wharton, and two independents, the former MP Andy Reed and former IBM UK general manager Vic Luck.

The panel interviewed over 65 key figures and took on board the conclusions of an earlier review of the performance director recruitment process, conducted by the RFU's chairman of governance Peter Baines.

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