Steve Phillips appointed as WRU interim CEO
Group finance director, Steve Phillips, will become interim chief executive officer of the Welsh Rugby Union when incumbent Martyn Phillips leaves the role after the next Annual General Meeting in October.
Phillips will assume responsibility for the day to day running of the Union from 14th September, with the transition and hand over period between the two colleagues set to reach its conclusion in advance of the AGM, scheduled for Sunday 18th October.
The current WRU GFD joined in 2007 from a similar role with TBI, one of the largest regional airport owners in the world.
In addition to managing the financial impact of the current pandemic on Welsh rugby, he has recently represented the WRU in discussions with CVC over their investment in the PRO14 competition and overseen The Westgate Hotel project, a joint venture between the Union, Celtic Manor Resort and property firm Rightacres.
“I am delighted to announce Steve’s appointment,” said chairman Gareth Davies.
“We have seen a large number of excellent candidates and Steve has impressed throughout the process. There is no doubt that the sports industry has been significantly impacted by the current pandemic. Steve has been at the forefront of our management of this challenging period.
“He knows our business inside out and I believe this knowledge, combined with his track record with the Union and long established strong relationships throughout the world game, ensure he is well placed to navigate the challenges ahead.
“It became clear during the recruitment process that the uncertainty currently surrounding sport was a challenge, both for candidates and the Union. For this reason, I asked Steve if he would consider taking the position on an interim basis. He is entirely familiar with the business and as such will ‘hit the ground running’.
“In the interests of transparency, we also discussed with Steve the fact that a possible new chairperson would more than likely prefer to appoint their own chief executive, I know I would. Steve was fully supportive of this approach and this is the reason for appointing on an interim basis.”
The WRU’s next chief executive spent ten years at TBI, playing active roles in the acquisition of airports in Belfast, Sweden, London Luton, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Australia and North America, before moving on to tackle Welsh Rugby’s finances.
In the 13 years since he first joined the Union he has filed a succession of Annual Reports charting a significant rise in the turnover of the WRU, which reached £90.5m in the accounts for the year ending 2019 and overseen the reduction of the company’s debt from in excess of £50m when he took over to an all-time low of £6.2m. These accounts also showed the WRU re-invested a record £49.6m (2018: £42.8m) across the game in Wales.
“It is both an honour and a privilege to take on this role and I am hugely confident about what the future holds for Welsh rugby,” said Phillips.
“Sport’s governing bodies have a broad remit and I relish the challenge of balancing the needs of the community clubs that are the lifeblood of our game with the ‘business’ of professional sport.
“I very much look forward to building on the solid foundations created by Martyn during his five year tenure and working with our staff, clubs, commercial partners and our wider stakeholder community in the coming months. There are undoubtedly tough times ahead but with the right planning, resource and strategies in place Welsh rugby will be in the very best position to not only continue to build sustainability but to also thrive in spite of the unprecedented challenges we face.”
Phillips trained with KPMG and qualified as a chartered accountant in 1989. He was previously Finance Director at the Tedcastle UK Group before joining TBI as Group Financial Controller and then Group Finance Director.
He played rugby for Amman Valley Comprehensive School, Imperial College London, University of London and Amman United, where he captained the first XV. He was previously on the Dragons Rugby Board and is currently on the Boards of European Professional Club Rugby, Celtic Rugby DAC & Pro Rugby Championship DAC and the Professional Rugby Board (PRB) in Wales.