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WRU chair Rob Butcher to step down

Rob Butcher has revealed he will not stand again for a position on the Welsh Rugby Union Board.

This means, in turn, relinquishing any option to stand again as chair after completing his current term of office at the WRU’s 2022 Annual General Meeting.

He’s decided not to re-apply for a Board role when a new election takes place this month (Nov), but will remain on the WRU Council.

Butcher officially withdrew from the running in a letter submitted before the AGM, held at the Parkgate Hotel in Cardiff on Sunday. The AGM sought to introduce a number of high profile governance reforms and Butcher led an appeal to clubs to allow the Board the option of appointing an independent chair, at a future date.

The special resolution was narrowly defeated (66% of the required 75% of votes were won) but, although Butcher is disappointed with the result, his decision to step down after two consecutive one-year terms at the helm has been made for close personal reasons and pre-dates the AGM.

“My reasons for stepping down are personal and they will remain private to me and my family, but I hope members will understand that I have taken great care to get the timing right for this announcement, so that the outcome of the WRU’s 2022 AGM was not to be affected,” said Butcher.

“The role of chair of the WRU is both a demanding and an extremely high profile position, it is a role that member clubs care deeply about and that anyone engaged in Welsh rugby throughout the land has a vested interest in.

“One of the special resolutions we were proposing last weekend was especially sensitive in terms of the Board’s potential ability to appoint a chair from outside of the current closed group of eight national and district council members.

“Unfortunately this resolution was not passed and I have expressed my absolute disappointment at this fact but, on reflection, with 66% of votes in the room in favour of modernising our governance structure in this way, that is an indication that members may be open to change in the future.

“I would implore my successor and those who remain on the WRU Board to continue on this journey, we are certainly going in the right direction and I am confident members will be receptive to change if we can get the proposition right.”

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Butcher has already been re-appointed to the WRU Council, as a district council member, for the next two years, but he will also step back from chairing the Community Game Board (CGB) – a role which he had held in tandem with his position as chair of the WRU Board.

The new chair of the CGB, to be appointed at its next meeting, will automatically be appointed to the WRU Board, in place of Butcher.

One of the special resolutions which was voted through at the AGM means that this position (CGB chair) can now be contested by any District or National Council member (previously only District Council members could stand).

Once the make-up of the new WRU Board has been confirmed, after elections at Wednesday’s Council meeting, a Board meeting will be called at which the next WRU chair will be chosen.

“My message to my successor will be to grasp this opportunity with both hands,” said Butcher.

“I hope I have set in train a direction of travel in terms of governance modernisation which will now be followed.
“I firmly believe member clubs want what is best for Welsh rugby and it is incumbent upon us as Board and Council to set the right strategic direction, but we must also bring members with us and that is the challenge ahead.

“It has been a huge honour and a privilege to chair the Welsh Rugby Union over the last two years. These have been difficult times, with the pandemic and our strategy to mitigate its effect playing a key part in everything we have attempted to do. I hope that I have represented the position well and I would like to thank all of those around me, my fellow Board and Council members, the executive staff and most definitely all of the staff at the WRU who have supported me from day one.

“To member clubs too, who have shown me a warm and heartfelt Welsh welcome wherever I have visited during my tenure I am extremely grateful to you for your acceptance of me and for your passion for the game. If we can continue to harness this passion for the greater good of Welsh rugby, I have no doubt we will thrive in the years ahead.

“I’ve always believed that good values and a positive culture and behaviours lie at the heart of this organisation and I would also encourage everyone to continue with their hard work in this area.

“The growth in the female game is particularly gratifying, for example, but we also know there is a long way to go in that area.”

Butcher became the WRU’s fifth chair of the professional era following Vernon Pugh QC, Glanmor Griffiths, David Pickering and Gareth Davies in November 2020 and one of his first tasks after winning election was to appoint CEO Steve Phillips.

“Rob has been tireless in his unselfish work on governance modernisation and history will show that he has taken us much further forward on this subject than is currently obvious and his contribution has been much broader and profound,” said Phillips.

“He spoke very eloquently at the AGM and it was a measure of the man that so many member clubs understood what he was trying to achieve and voted in favour of the resolution the Board was proposing.

“It has been a tough ask to explain that we need to evolve and modernise our structures, but Rob has shown absolute integrity, empathy and humanity at every turn and been able to reach out to influence hearts and minds.

“I am very disappointed on both a personal and professional level to see him stand down as chair and I will miss our healthy debates on many subjects. But of course I fully respect his reasons for doing so .

“On an extremely positive note I am pleased to be able to say that the breadth of experience he brings, and has gained during his time as chair, will be retained within Welsh rugby by virtue of his continued position on the WRU Council.”

WRU President Gerald Davies added: “Rob’s legacy to Welsh rugby will be that he moved the dial on governance change and led the way in terms of ensuring the survival of our member clubs through the pandemic.

“It has been a pleasure to work with such a passionate and dedicated ambassador for the game in Wales.

“Always a champion of the grass roots game, he will not only be missed in the corridors and meeting rooms of the WRU, but also in some of the highest offices of the World Game.

“Rob is a great servant to Welsh rugby, an unassuming character who has showed the very highest integrity and dedication to the role of chair. A champion of the grassroots game “

Incumbent WRU vice-chair Ieuan Evans added: “Rob has been instrumental in ensuring the Board is united in its view of the way forward.

“We have made significant strides already in terms of modernising our governance structures and Rob has played a critical part in helping us determine how we must run our game.

“That is testament to his leadership skills, his close bonds with the community game. His absolute integrity and determination to do the right thing for Welsh rugby at every turn has shone brightly.

“We are losing an important, experienced and proactive Board member as well as our chair over the last two years, but is a measure of the man that he will not leave us altogether and will still contribute via his seat on the WRU Council and for that we are grateful.

“Thank you Rob for all that you have done for Welsh rugby and for the dignity and respect with which you have conducted yourself during your time in one of the most important positions in our game.”