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Lydia Stirling

Lydia Stirling joined the WRU in September 2021 as People Director

Hundreds of candidates for INED roles

People Director Lydia Stirling says candidates for the new independent chair and independent non-executive (INED) roles at the Welsh Rugby Union have numbered in their hundreds, with the calibre of applicant described as ‘outstanding’.

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The WRU has confirmed a shortlist for the new chair has been finalised and the selection panel, representing all quarters of Welsh rugby, is ready to enter the interview stage with a view to making a formal appointment early this summer.

Stirling reveals the shortlist for chair boasts representation from the third, the private and the public sector and emphasises the process remains on course to change the complexion of Welsh rugby’s boardroom irrevocably – a hugely positive process which began when member clubs voted through seismic governance changes proposed, and campaigned for, by incumbent chair Ieuan Evans at the EGM in March.

With a new chair expected to be announced before the summer is out, the CEO position will be resolved soon after – at the new chair’s discretion – and the recruitment process for two further INEDs is scheduled to be completed by Christmas, but could be advanced.

There is no current shortlist for the CEO position, as the new chair will play an integral role in this appointment process, although work behind the scenes is at an advanced stage with a long-list of high calibre candidates curated by recruitment consultants Odgers Berndtson.

The aspiration remains that 40% of the new board should be female, with recruitment for INEDs and club elections for national and district directors, four of whom will sit on the new board, expected to contribute to this ambition.

“The new chair is the keystone appointment, everything will follow from this moment, but the general calibre of applicant in all areas as been outstanding,” said Stirling, who joined the WRU as People Director in September 2021 having held previous senior HR roles at Arup and McLaren Racing.

“We have a fine shortlist for the chair position, we are in advanced stages in the recruitment process for CEO to the extent we will be able to pass over an impressive long-list of names to our new chair on appointment and, in total, more than 300 high calibre candidates are on our radar for our vacant positions.

“The whole recruitment process has met the expectations raised by the seismic decision our member clubs took to modernise our governance in March.

“Our new chair will naturally be from a different mould.

“We know, from our shortlist, we will gain a chair from a professional background. Someone who has held a prestigious executive position, from one of our senior institutions in the UK or perhaps from a major blue chip company, but all candidates are united by one thing; a passion and connection to Welsh rugby.

“The opportunity for Welsh rugby to turn in a different direction during this next chapter, to further maximise commercial revenue and increase funds in the game in Wales, is very real.

“These are incredibly exciting times for our staff, but also for anyone with an interest in the game in Wales. The WRU is taking steps to fully realise its potential and we have an outstanding list of candidates who will help us to do that.”

Stirling is so impressed by the standard of people interested in the new WRU Board positions, she has been presented with a further problem – how to continue to harness this level of interest from such a high calibre group?

“The Board position which will carry specific responsibility for the women’s and girls game has more than 80 quality candidates, for example,” said Stirling.

“We are very excited, because we know we will make an appointment here that will have a hugely positive effect.

“Due to the high standard of individuals who have expressed an interest, whoever gets it in the end, we know we will have someone with the skillset and acumen to not only keep up with the exponential rise in the women’s game but to also take the lead in future advancements.

“I have been particularly close to this piece of recruitment and the high calibre of candidate has made me think about retaining that talent in some way, harnessing the passion these people have for our game and ensuring they can make a contribution, even if they are unsuccessful on this occasion in a hugely impressive field.

“This will be a vitally important part of the current process, we can’t lose the hard work that has been done in researching and finding relatable and useful talent with a passion for Welsh rugby, we must find a way to hold on to and continue to engage all of these people in our game.”

The Welsh Rugby Union passed a Special Resolution on 26th March 2023 to allow the appointment of an Independent Non-Executive Director (INED) as chair and recruit a two further new INEDs to its twelve-person Board, doubling the total number of INEDs to six.

In the new configuration four Board members will still come from the WRU Council which is entirely elected by member clubs, one of whom will be the Community Game Board’s chair.

The remaining two spots on the Board will be filled by the WRU CEO and a new Director role for someone who can support and further the women’s game.
All changes will take place in context of the overall aspiration to ensure at least five Directors are women.

The Annual General Meeting of the WRU, which will see a natural changing of the guard for a number of WRU Council members takes place in November, and the WRU has already planned a timeline for appointments, with the new chair to come in first and the following processes to be completed before the end of 2023.


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