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Brian Barwick to stand down as Chair of RFL

Brian Barwick has announced today in a letter to RFL clubs and stakeholders that he will not seek a third term as Chair of the Rugby Football League. As a result, he will step down as Chair at the end of the RFL Council Meeting on July 24th 2019.

Brian has served two three-year terms since he succeeded Maurice Watkins as Chair in February 2013.

He will also step down as Chair of Super League Europe and Rugby League World Cup 2021.

The Rugby League World Cup 2021 also announced this morning that Brian will be appointed to the new role of President of Rugby League World Cup 2021.

The RFL Board Nominations Committee will meet soon to agree the process for the appointment of a successor as Chair of the RFL, which will have to be ratified by the RFL Council – and also of Rugby League World Cup 2021, to which the RFL is able to nominate the Chair.

Simon Johnson, currently the RFL’s Senior Independent Director, will act as Interim Chair of the RFL from July 24th until a new Chair is able to start.

Explaining his decision, Brian Barwick wrote:

“It has been an absolute privilege and pleasure to be at the helm of such a wonderful sport for the past six years and more. I have met some fantastic people – both on-field and off-field – watched some remarkable matches, worked with some very talented individuals and witnessed, with sheer admiration, how the game comes together when one of its own¿ is having a tough time. And I will miss all of those elements of rugby league life. However I feel it is the right time to give somebody else the chance to take the sport forward. And I will offer my unequivocal support to them.

“On a personal note I celebrate my own 65th birthday soon, and with over four decades in and around top-class sport behind me¿, I feel it is time now to scale back on some of my wide range of activities. “I have played a central part in the governance changes and re-structuring of the game that has taken place over the past 18 months and at times it proved very challenging – and so it should have. However I was determined to stay in my current role until a satisfactory conclusion was reached – which is now imminent.

“I do believe the sport, at all levels, has a good future. And already I think this season there has been signs of ¿a freshness about our elite competitions. There has been a significant growth in profile and broadcast coverage for both Super League and Championship and League 1.

The streaming of matches from those competitions, and also from the early rounds of the Challenge Cup, have brought a whole new opportunity for people to enjoy our sport on both traditional and new media platforms.

“It is also great to see the Women’s Super League developing so well – and a real sense of direction for our Community Game emerging. And I believe our England teams are showing real signs of the value of the investment that has been put into them over the past few years.

“I was delighted to be the Chairman of the successful Rugby League World Cup 2021 bid and subsequently the Chairman of the organisation tasked with delivering the biggest and boldest Rugby League World Cup there has ever been. I will stand down from that post too, but am absolutely delighted to accept an offer to be the organisation’s President and will continue to do my bit in helping deliver a stand-out international event in this country: a World Cup that will encompass men’s, women’s and wheelchair team competitions staged in ¿some of the country’s finest stadiums and in the heartland of the game.

“I will leave the sport with a thousand memories, those two World Cup semi-finals – the last-gasp England defeat against New Zealand at Wembley in 2013 and the remarkable setting for England’s 2017 win over Tonga in Auckland – amongst them. And my favourite? Possibly watching England clinch a Test series win over New Zealand last year, with the match-winning try scored in front of the Kop at Anfield.

“I will also hold very dear the privilege and honour of laying a wreath on behalf of the RFL at the Cenotaph on each Challenge Cup Final eve. ¿A timely reminder that sport, our sport, has the gift and responsibility to help bring people together rather than set them apart.

“I also want to thank all the club officials who have welcomed me so warmly when I’ve attended matches. And thank the RFL staff for all the hard work they do on behalf of the game – often unsung. And, of course, I must thank my fellow RFL Board members, past and present, for their insight and companionship. The meetings have never been dull!

“I will continue to watch the great game of rugby league and be a firm and committed advocate and supporter of the sport – and I promise to be ‘onside’ at all times!”

Simon Johnson, who has served on the RFL Board with Barwick since July 2014 and is the RFL’s Senior Independent Director, said:

“Brian has been an outstanding chair of the RFL, who has led the Board with passion, humour and skill. His leadership through the challenges of the last few years has been exemplary. We are thrilled that he will take up the new role of President of the Rugby League World Cup 2021 and will continue to be a superb Ambassador for the Tournament.”

Ralph Rimmer, the RFL Chief Executive, said:

“Brian has shown real leadership since he took on the role of Chairman and has been a great figurehead for the sport. He truly loves the sport and his passion for it, and the people within it, has shone through over his six years in charge. He has been a key driver in helping navigate through what have been some choppy waters and now steps down having delivered some real change. He is thoroughly deserving of his new RLWC2021 role and beyond that will always be welcome in our sport. We would hope to see plenty of him in the future.”

For further information, contact Andy Wilson, RFL Head of Media – andy.wilson@rfl.co.uk


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