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RFU board to come under scrutiny

The Rugby Football Union management board's role in the hiring and firing of John Steele is to come into sharp focus over the next three weeks.

Judge Jeff Blackett has launched his review into the whole episode and vowed to move "quickly and decisively" in a bid to prevent the RFU's reputation from suffering any further damage.

Judge Blackett said: "It is vital for the reputation of the RFU that we move quickly and decisively on this and that we are able to carry out an open and transparent review of the events of the last few months. Only when we know what happened can we ensure that lessons are learnt for the future good governance of the RFU.

"We owe it to our members and all those who play and watch rugby to ensure that we are diligent and thorough and I would like to thank the panel in advance for their involvement in what will be an intensive and busy programme if we are to come back to the RFU council in just over three weeks."

The RFU's board ousted Steele as chief executive at an emergency meeting last Thursday night after deciding his position had become untenable. RFU chairman Martyn Thomas explained Steele, who had only been in the post for nine months, had lost the confidence of the board and key stakeholders in the game.

At a scheduled meeting the following day, some angry RFU council members considered a vote of no confidence in the board. One claimed the RFU had been made to look "foolish".

Thomas apologised for getting it wrong with the recruitment of Steele, so it never came to that. But the council did request Blackett, the RFU's chief disciplinary officer, conduct a review and report to their next meeting, on July 10. Blackett is chairing a five-strong panel, who met for the first time on Wednesday.

The review panel is comprised of RFU council members Geraint Ashton Jones and Malcolm Wharton plus Andy Reed, chairman-elect of the Sports and Recreation Alliance, and Vic Luck, formerly general manager of IBM UK.

They will investigate everything from Steele's recruitment to the process leading to the termination of his contract. The botched recruitment of a new performance director, which played such a key part in Steele's downfall, will also be under the microscope.

Blackett's panel will be able to interview everyone who was involved in the process and he has sought agreement from Steele's lawyers that members of the board may disclose the reasons for their decision. The terms of Steele's departure are otherwise covered by a confidentiality clause.

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