Rob Butcher: New chairman backs WRU to overcome Covid impact

Rob Butcher and Ieuan Evans
Rob Butcher (left) beat Ieuan Evans to the WRU chairmanship

New chairman Rob Butcher believes the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) can guide the sport out of the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Butcher beat Ieuan Evans to the role in October after ex-chairman Gareth Davies lost his bid to stay on the governing body.

The chairman says money generated by the sport’s professional tier can sustain its grassroots.

“The community game is the heartbeat of what we are about,” said Butcher.

“But that heartbeat needs a blood supply and that is where the professional game comes in.

“We must manage the revenue potential of the game to maximum effect in order to sustain it and I’m confident that we have the skills and expertise at the highest level of the Union to do that.”

He made the statement in the WRU’s latest updateexternal-link on how it is dealing with Covid-19 continued impact on the sport in Wales.

The WRU is dealing with the severe financial pressures caused by the pandemic while clubs and rugby organisations throughout the country are also suffering as the game remains dormant at community level.

They governing body is already facing up to the prospect of losing £35m of revenue if the 2021 Six Nations home matches against England and Ireland are played behind closed doors following on from no spectators during the Autumn Nations Cup.

The WRU has also negotiated a UK Government-backed £20m loan from NatWest Bank for the four Welsh regions, which Cardiff Blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and Dragons will be expected to pay back over five years.

Butcher says the expertise of leading officials Amanda Blanc and non-executive directors Tim Griffin and Aileen Richards gives him confidence in the WRU.

“We also have a huge amount of financial experience and, in [interim] CEO Steve Phillips, we have the person best placed to lead us through the current economic climate,” he added.

“I’ve been in positions all my life where I’ve been able to observe leadership in action and I am someone who is constantly learning from others.

“I learn something new every day and I intend to take on the best characteristics of those around me and those who have gone before me.

“My style is not dictatorial, I’m a great listener and I genuinely care about people.

“I have a collaborative approach and I believe the best decisions are reached only after a variety of views have been aired and listened to.

“Of course I have my own opinions and viewpoints, but whenever a decision is to be made, when I’ve been involved, it is the consensus that wins out. That may even mean that my first opinion is overturned, but the excellent leaders are the ones that bring people together.”

Butcher is chairman for one year, a departure from his predecessor Davies, who sat two three-year terms.

“Ever since I joined the board five years ago there has been a desire to modernise our governance,” said Butcher..

“It has not been easy, but we have made progress on this front, with significant changes coming in.

“But we know that more progress must be made. We live in an ever-changing world and our governance model must evolve alongside. We need to be fit and agile as a board and able to move as conditions change.

“For me change is a continuum and one good example of this is the recent decision the board made on the tenure of its chairman.

“Before I was voted in, we discussed the prospect of the successful candidate sitting for three, two or a one-year term.

“The board concluded that, at a time of great change in the game, a one-year term would be most appropriate on this occasion, with a view to revisiting the decision in 12-months’ time.

“I think this is a great example of the board adapting to the circumstances it is presented with.

“It’s a decision taken that I fully support, something that is not about me, but about what is the best decision for the union.”

BBC News