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Richard Collier-Keywood and Alison Thorne join WRU Board

Richard Collier-Keywood and Alison Thorne join WRU Board

The Welsh Rugby Union has made the first appointments to its new Board, with two Independent Non-Executive Directors (INEDs) – Richard Collier-Keywood and Alison Thorne.

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Richard Collier-Keywood, who is a former UK managing partner and Global vice-chair of PwC, has been a senior adviser to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and will become the first independent chair of the WRU.

Alison Thorne, a short-listed contender for chair herself, has accepted the invitation to fill one of two further vacant INED spots on the WRU Board, with active recruitment still ongoing for remaining INED candidates.

The changes come after member clubs voted almost unanimously (97%) in favour of current chair Ieuan Evans’ modernising proposals at a recent Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM).

Alison is from Penarth, has a commercial background in the retail sector as an Executive Director and is currently Chair of the National Dance Company Wales and Chair of Barcud Housing Association.

She is a former chair of leading equality charity Chwarae Teg and is the Lead in Wales for Women on Boards. Creating inclusive organisations is her core aim with insightful awareness of the challenges and opportunities in delivering diversity in thinking.

She holds a number of further current non-Exec roles including Board member at Sport Wales, Governor of Cardiff Metropolitan University, and is an independent panel member for Public Appointments for Welsh Government. Her love for rugby stems from her father, Tony Thorne, who was a groundsman at the former National Stadium, Cardiff Arms Park in 1970s & 1980s.

Richard’s mother grew up in Maesteg and his childhood was split between Nottingham and Porthcawl. He has followed Welsh rugby passionately since the early 1970s. He will be the first appointed (rather than elected) chair in WRU history when he takes over from Ieuan Evans.

Richard has a commercial background in the professional services sector, but has stayed close to his roots and is a passionate advocate for improving society through working with local communities and purpose driven businesses.

He currently chairs Fair4All Finance, funded by dormant assets to support financial inclusion and the School for Social Entrepreneurs which supports hundreds of entrepreneurs to start and scale businesses that make a difference. He is also on the Board of the National Community Lottery Fund and Women of the World, which promotes gender equality internationally.

New WRU Board INEDs Richard (left) and Alison

“I’m absolutely delighted to accept the role as chair of the WRU. Welsh rugby has always been hugely emotional for me and it is such a strength that there are millions of us that care and feel the same way,” said Richard.

“The hard work of Ieuan Evans and Nigel Walker over the last few months has meant that we have a solid platform to take forward. There is a lot to do and I am looking forward to:

– developing and implementing a strategy which supports and drives all elements of Welsh rugby throughout both the women’s and the men’s game, increasing the amount that we can invest in both the professional game and the community;

– establishing a new culture and implementing the recommendations of the ongoing independent review; and

– working with the Board to ensure we have the right mix of skills and viewpoints to take Welsh rugby forward

“It is exciting that rugby is evolving to include the whole family and we need to recognise and support this as well as the very important role that it plays at the centre of many of our communities.

“Finally, we are excited about Wales’ prospects for the future, not least the upcoming World Rugby U20s Championship in South Africa, the men’s RWC in France and the World XV tournament for Wales’ Women in New Zealand.”

The double appointment means Alison and Richard will begin a handover in the next weeks. Richard is due to take up his post officially next month and Alison will follow soon after.

Work will now progress in earnest on appointing a permanent CEO for the WRU Group – this work will be led by the new chair – and further recruitment to the new-look Board will continue.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to join the WRU Board at this exciting time for the game in Wales,” said Alison.

“Change has been necessary and, perhaps, overdue as recognised by the commitment to a new way forward by the community and professional game members. This commitment will enable the game to become truly inclusive and successful as we all work together towards that aim.

“It will be incumbent upon myself and colleagues joining the Board to ensure that progress continues to be made, listening effectively and enhancing the unique, endearing and impressive qualities that Welsh rugby projects around the world.

“Welsh rugby has been the pride of Wales and it will be a privilege to be a part of rebuilding and developing that pride and passion still further as we look to bring much deserved sustainability and success to all aspects of the game.”

Proposals* passed at the WRU’s EGM in March, brought forward by incumbent chair Evans, were:

• To increase the number of Directors who are appointed rather than elected, from three to at least six
• To reduce the number – from eight to four – of elected national or district members from the WRU Council on the Board (NB one of these positions will be occupied by the Community Game Board chair)

And that the full composition of the new WRU Board would be:

o CEO and Independent Chair
o Four Independent Non-Exec Directors (INEDs)
o Chair of the PRB (also an INED on appointment) and a representative for the women’s game
o Four (two National and two District) council members including Chair of the Community Game Board

*with all changes to be made under the firm and enduring commitment that at least five (40%) members of the 12-person Board should be women.

Ieuan Evans

Ieuan Evans

“We have made two hugely exciting appointments in both Alison and Richard and I welcome them both to Welsh rugby,” said Evans, who will stay on as chair for a short transition period working alongside his successor over the next few weeks.

“I would like to personally thank everyone who has expressed an interest in joining the WRU Board at this time of seismic change for our governance structure, we have been humbled by the high calibre of candidates in all quarters.

“Our new-look Board is beginning to take shape and I have every confidence that we will have the diversity of talent and skillset to ensure our place in the elite women’s and men’s game and to continue to grow and support all sections of our community game, both male and female, when the process is complete .

“We continue in our long term aspiration to achieve a 40% gender balance across the Board and will work hard to ensure this is achieved, whilst also ensuring we have the very best people for the job and the right variety of skills experience and business acumen to lead Welsh rugby into a new frontier.

“Welsh rugby will be rightly buoyed by these two new appointments but these are just the first steps. Next we will find our permanent CEO and fill the remaining INED position and vacancies. We will assemble a Board which stands up to scrutiny and meets the highest standards of the rugby world and one that will make the nation proud in the years ahead.”

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