Following the announcement that Martyn Thomas will next month stand down as acting chief executive the RFU has, assumingly, now begun its hunt to find a suitable candidate to fill the position on a permanent basis, as the organisation continues along a seemingly never ending path of inconveniently timed changes and restructures.
The CEO, who will in effect be the ultimate boss of Martin Johnson’s incoming replacement, is expected to be appointed on December 14th. The chosen candidate will, as a result, be required to think on their feet, given that their appointment will fall worryingly close to the announcement of the revised England squad in the New Year and, of course, England’s first Six Nations draw on February 4th against Scotland.
The role is not to be underestimated. This is, above all else, a business appointment and one which will require an individual capable of stepping onto the frontline, knowing that those around them are masters in the game of passing the buck.
Whoever is chosen will need to be prepared to dirty their hands, to uncover an endless number of skeletons that no doubt still lurk within the closet of the RFU and, perhaps more importantly, they must be equipped to endure the most turbulent of rollercoaster rides that the British press and a Nation of deflated fans will no doubt invite them onto.
Who then is the right person for the job? A number of candidates have been linked to the role, albeit speculatively, since Thomas’ announcement. There is, however. one person who, for whatever reason, has not been publicly associated with the post. This someone may well offer everything that the position requires, and then some; West Ham’s vice chairman Karren Brady.
Thrown into the mainstream spotlight perhaps more so than ever by Lord Sugar, Brady has one of the most impressive portfolios of sporting executive experience that the RFU could stumble upon.
Former managing director of Birmingham City FC, Brady completed the most impressive of 180s when she turned the club around from bankruptcy to recording a financial trading profit in just a year, and later to a stock market listing in only four years. From joining Birmingham City in 1993 to her departure in 2009, Brady managed to take a club which was struggling in administration with a diminishing fan base, and transform it into a business worth over £82million, reinvigorating its army of followers along the way.
Working her magic next on West Ham United FC, Brady led a major campaign to secure status as preferred bidder for the Olympic Stadium. In doing so she has continued to make her presence felt as one of the UK’s most powerful and capable businesswomen with an enviable ability, complete with proven track record, of managing elite professional sporting outfits through even the most challenging of times, ensuring that they emerge at the end of the tunnel in a far better position than that in which they entered.
The incoming CEO of the RFU must offer the ability to manage and to lead by example. Moreover they will need to come free from baggage, with an open mind, uninfluenced by external pressures or by the personal motivations of any internal figure. Only then will they stand a chance of turning around an organisation which, sadly, has lost its way.
But more so than the attributes above, the RFU could benefit hugely from the presence of an individual who is likeable, personable and a walking, talking role model for the game; someone who can effortlessly uphold the values of discipline, professionalism and passion that England rugby does represent, but has recently managed to misplace.
It has often been said that is takes a strong-minded, resilient female to succeed to the highest of positions in business. This is arguably truer than ever within a male-dominated sports environment. Here we have an example of a woman who has done just this and, moreover, has done it without ever compromising her own values or losing the public’s respect.
While there are other candidates who too offer impressive experience in leading major commercial entities, perhaps most notably Steve Holliday of the National Grid who, of course, offers a passion and a long-standing enthusiasm for rugby as a factor weighing in his favour, I am surely not alone in thinking that this is a role which could well have Brady’s name written all over it.
Could the first woman in football prove just as handy on the rugby field?