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Robertson urges RFU to modernise

Sports minister Hugh Robertson has urged the Rugby Football Union council not to be afraid of change as they prepare to debate sweeping reforms to the organisation's governance structure.

The RFU board on Wednesday implemented a significant change to the England management and the 63 council members are now being asked to consider proposals to streamline and modernise their own body.

Robertson told Press Association Sport the current structure is "like a throwback to the previous era" and not equipped to run a modern professional sport.

Nigel Boardman, a partner in the law firm Slaughter and May, will on Friday present a 169-page report which recommends a smaller council with reduced powers. Slaughter and May's report recommends the number of council members elected from the community game be cut from 60 to 25, including five from under-represented groups.

Slaughter and May's report also recommends changes to the structure of the RFU's management board, removing the president from the table and proposing three independent non-executives. There are currently two.

Robertson contributed to the review of the RFU's governance, which was commissioned following the Blackett Report into the hiring and firing of John Steele as chief executive. One council member has been quoted as equating the council's task with turkeys voting for Christmas but Robertson believes reform is vital for the RFU.

"I don't think the governance structure, as currently constituted, is really good enough to run the game in the modern era," said Robertson. "It looks a bit like a throwback to the previous era. If you compare the RFU with any commercial model it would fall far short.

"The 'council dictates to the board dictates to the executive' model was great 20-30 years ago but in a modern well-financed business-orientated world it is not the most efficient way to run the game. The future governance of the RFU will depend on the Slaughter and May report and what the RFU do with it.

"The crucial thing is the RFU implement them (the recommendations). That is not going to be easy. If there are people who are afraid of change and kick this into the long grass then you will have broadly the same structure and there is no reason why this won't occur again in the future.

"The important thing is that rugby realises this is an opportunity to move forward, to get its governance structures to run the modern professional game and that we put England rugby on a much better footing - both in governance and high performance systems - than has been the case up to now."

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