ENGLAND rugby chiefs the RFU have restored some of the optimism shipped so alarmingly over recent months by appointing one of the most respected men in tennis, Wimbledon boss Ian Ritchie, as their new chief executive.
Ritchie, who has held his post at the All England Lawn Tennis and Crocquet Club (AELTC) since 2005, made his name in broadcasting but has since become a key figure in sports governance. A member of the Football Association Council, he is also on the boards of Wembley Stadium and the Football League.
Ritchie impressed so much at Wimbledon that he was tipped as a possible future chief executive of the ATP Tour, which runs men’s tennis.
Instead, he is making the short trip across south-west London to Twickenham, where he will take over from the RFU’s acting CEO Stephen Brown early next year.
“We could not have wished for a better candidate who is so highly respected across sport and the business sectors,” said Ian Metcalfe, RFU director and chairman of the Professional Game Board. “He was the standout candidate with his combination of business acumen, leadership qualities and background in sports administration.”
It follows last week’s appointment of Stuart Lancaster as temporary head coach for next year’s Six Nations, further stabilising an organisation buffeted by this year’s World Cup debacle.
England exited the tournament at the quarter-finals, equalling their worst ever performance, in a campaign marred by indiscipline on the field and player misbehaviour off it.
Manager Martin Johnson fell on his sword last month, and leaks from internal reports have since laid bare the rifts and dissatisfaction among the squad.
Ritchie said: “I believe English rugby has a very bright future, culminating in a once in a lifetime home World Cup in 2015. I am determined to help rugby create a legacy from the tournament that will benefit the sport for generations to come.”