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The recent announcement that current USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville accepted a position as director of professional rugby at the (England) Rugby Football Union marks, now, a significant reappraisal of the future of the USA Rugby organization, and, more broadly, the continuing development of the sport in the United States.
Melville’s contract expires June 30, a mere two-months away, and, as of today, there is no announcement from USA Rugby as to his successor. This vital changeover at the top also parallels other forthcoming transformations within the organization; the election of a new board member (Bob Latham retiring after two-decades of generous service), the election of a new chairman of the board, and the appointment of a new director of strategic planning.
Previously, Melville was on tap to take over the newly created Rugby International Marketing (RIM) initiative, a for profit entity that he created with a reported $1.5 million investment from USA Rugby, including a ten-percent investment from the sole partner, the RFU. The organization’s goal is to monetize future rugby events in the country, including test matches, other national hosting tournaments, and a rugby television channel. There was no statement from the RFU that Melville's responsibilities would include any RIM activities.
How Melville at RIM was going to interact with the new USA Rugby CEO was an intent never made clear. There was talk that RIM would exist in New York City, to be closer to the major media market. Melville’s imminent departure clouds the short-term RIM progress since it is uncertain who is at its helm, or to whom an executive director reports.
All comments and criticisms of Melville become moot; he will have no authority within USA Rugby or RIM as of July 1. Good luck to him in this new RFU position.
In sum, there remain less than sixty-days to name a new CEO of USA Rugby, following a selection process that perhaps has not been that transparent to the rugby community. The new appointee will have a substantial executive challenge, but, at least, that person will, fortunately, not have the former CEO looking over his or her shoulder.