The man responsible for running the Wimbledon tennis championships is to be the new chief executive of England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU), the under-fire governing body announced on Wednesday.
Ian Ritchie, the chief executive of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, moves across London with Twickenham in a state of flux, following a year of off-field wrangling compounded by a wretched performance at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
The RFU have been without a permanent chief executive since John Steele was forced out in June, after a botched attempt to create a new performance director role many thought would go to 2003 World Cup-winning coach Clive Woodward.
Then RFU chairman Martyn Thomas was forced to stand down in the ensuing furore and last month he quit as acting RFU chief executive on Tuesday.
He was replaced in the acting role by Stephen Brown, who now reverts to his previous post of RFU chief financial officer.
Ian Metcalfe, the RFU board member who led the recruitment, said of Ritchie: “He was the standout candidate with his combination of business acumen, leadership qualities and background in sports administration.”
“We could not have wished for a better candidate who is so highly respected across sport and the business sectors,” he added.
Ritchie, also a director of Wembley Stadium and formerly a chief executive of broadcaster Channel Five, said: “I am very proud to be taking up the role of chief executive at the RFU and am excited about the chance to further develop the potential that the RFU and the game offers.”
The most pressing issue facing Ritchie will be the appointment of a new permanent head coach to succeed Martin Johnson.