Member clubs will vote on a series of special resolutions at the WRU’s Annual General Meeting, to be held at the Parkgate Hotel in Cardiff this Sunday and Butcher is backing key changes to safeguard the future of the game.
One change, if passed by a 75% majority, would give the WRU Board the option of appointing an independent non-executive (INED) chair in a move that would deepen its professional and commercial expertise, and current independent member Henry Engelhardt says this would be a vitally important move.
“The members of the boards drawn from the districts etc work extremely hard and put in a great deal of time and effort in supporting Welsh rugby,” said Engelhardt, who is the co-founder and former chief executive of arguably Wales’ most successful ever business, in FTSE 100 car insurance to loans group Admiral.
“They have earned their place, but the board needs a wide variety of skills and abilities and we need at least to be able to look outside and see if we can find them.
“It just opens up the possibility as an option.
“You might say the WRU is a £100m turnover business, but I would say there’s probably another £900m of goodwill from the fact that it is the national game of Wales and that everybody knows and cares about the team.
“We are stewards and I think that’s the thing we must remember.
“And as stewards we must not be thinking in a sense of our own particular needs, even the needs necessarily in our community, but for the good of the game as a whole. And I think that’s an important distinction.”
Currently the chair of the board, made up of 12 members, can only be drawn from the majority of its members representing the game at a district and national level.
Engelhardt is one of three current INEDs on the board alongside chief operating officer of Royal London Asset Management, Catherine Read, and former chair of Harlequins and business executive Malcolm Wall – who also chairs the Professional Rugby Board (PBR) – the body that represents the union and four professional regions and which takes up most of his WRU related time.
Current chair Butcher and all his fellow board members are supportive of an INED being able to become chair and Engelhardt stressed that if the resolution is backed, board members acting as district and national game representatives for the game, would continue to make an invaluable contribution.
“An independent chair is another board member and that’s really important as we need some help,” he continued.
“There are two independent non-executives, plus the chair of the Professional Rugby Board (Malcolm Wall), who has got his hands full with that.
“So, with the two of us the list of things we have to do is huge.
“We need some help but we are in no way advocating that the district members etc become a minority on the board, but we could use what I call more professional help.”
Engelhardt was a joint founder of Cardiff-based Admiral, a £3.5 bn turnover insurance business employing 11,000 staff and supporting five million customers, and was its CEO from 1991 until 2016, when he stepped away.
His formal association with Welsh rugby dates back to 2010 when the FTSE 100 company famously became front of shirt sponsors to the Wales national side and they remain a community partner to this day.
Originally from Chicago, with a journalistic degree from the University of Michigan, Engelhardt is a philanthropist who has lived in the Welsh capital for over 30 years and now describes himself as ‘dreaming in rugby’. He is also a minority shareholder of the Chicago Cubs baseball team.
Engelhardt said he likes the idea that, just like the position of a professional from anywhere in the world being able to coach the men’s Welsh team, the board should be able look further afield with regards its chair.
When asked about the possibility of being a potential future chairman of the board himself, he added: “I have interest in that I think the WRU is a good organisation and I’m very pleased to be part of it Do I have the time?
“No. So, I rule myself out as my schedule means I just wouldn’t be able to do a good job and I do not want to do anything for which I don’t do a good job.”