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The RFU announced it had hired Bill Sweeney to become the new head of the Union. Since 2013, Sweeney was CEO of the British Olympic Association (BOA) where he oversaw the successful London-based Games in 2012, and, witnessed England's excellent medal showing in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Sweeney held previous corporate titles at Shell, Mars, adidas, and Unilever. He played rugby as a youth.
The selection indicated that the RFU chose someone with a strong sports leadership background, not necessarily a rugby one. This marked the second occasion to seek a top-flight sports businessman in the Union's recent past. Formerly, the RFU chose Ian Ritchie as CEO who came from the executive ranks of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which operates the annual Wimbledon Tennis Tournament.
The RFU is in financial disorder after having suffered a $38 million loss under the aegis of Steve Brown who lasted a mere 14-months as CEO before resigning.
Sweeney faces four immediate tasks:
- Restructuring the global calendar of Test matches;
- Embarking on a new television deal for the Six Nations;
- Deciding finally on promotion and relegation for the English Premiership; and,
- Choosing a new Head Coach after Eddie Jones's tenure ends after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The BOA has proved to be an excellent source of leadership for English rugby. Debbie Jevans had been head of Sport in the 2012 London Olympics and was selected to head England's Rugby World Cup in 2015.
Sweeney will receive a package of £500,000 (US = $615.0M).