Rugby Canada Updates - January 2022

January 14 2022

Rugby Canada logo (Feb 2018)

Rugby Canada Select London Based Executive Search Firm to Find Next CEO

[editor's comments below]

Rugby Canada have announced their search for a new CEO to replace Allen Vansen who ends his term at the end of January. They've hired SRI a company based out of London who also boasts World Rugby as one of their clients. Already the result is sounding predictable. There's the worry they'll "find" a Nigel Melville type of CEO who knows rugby in his home nation and thinks he/she knows about Canadian rugby, but in reality doesn't have a clue. Just ask our neighbours to the south how the Nigel Melville years went (2007 - 2016), big plans, big deals, eventually bankruptcy.

World Rugby, predictably boasted, "Nigel Melville leaves USA Rugby in great shape" in an article from 2016. In 2020 USA Rugby filed for bankruptcy. A good read of the Melville years from a USA perspective, is Tony Ridnell's Blog.

The problem with the process is those in Canadian rugby who would be good at the job, already know the mess they would be inheriting. As one person replied, "an interesting challenge, probably not good for my mental health though". Offshore talent, on the other hand, oblivious to the challenge ahead would more readily accept the money, the position, with a "if it doesn't work out I'll just go home" attitude, another entry on the resume.

I went to the unusual step [sarcasm] of asking a highly respected former Canada player and business professional for a recommendation. Aaron Abrams was the name he put forth with the caveat, "not sure if he's interested". Aaron was capped 22 times for Canada at hooker and came through the CCSD (Pacific Pride) program. He was the CEO of the Canadian Rugby Foundation for four years and has worked his way up the Molly Maid International company to become CEO. He started as Director of Marketing and Business Development, then to Vice President & GM, and has held the CEO position for over 6 years. A company started in Canada, using a Canadian designed process and expanding internationally. The franchise model and management skills they use may transfer well to the NSO/Club model used in Canadian rugby. Worth some further thought at least.

Before I would have hired a head hunting company based in the UK, I think I would have polled former Canadian greats who also have a record of success in business. Then I would have talked to the people they suggested to see who was interested, only then, if that proved unfruitful would I have gone to a head hunting company. But that's just me and the way I think.

It will likely take about 3 months to see who they come up with, a Nigel Melville type, here today, gone tomorrow or an Aaron Abrams type who has already bled for his country and would take every win and loss personally.

In the interim they'll appoint a temporary CEO, someone from within most likely, but perhaps not from high performance. I'm sure we'll get a name put to that soon enough.

from Rugby Canada

Rugby Canada has announced that it has retained SRI Global Executive Search and Consulting to lead the search for its new Chief Executive Officer.

SRI was selected because of its track record of complex global sport CEO appointments involving multiple stakeholders and its demonstrated deep understanding of the structure, key relationships and business of sport in general and rugby in particular. They are proud of their culture of diversity and inclusion.

“The SRI team brings broad expertise across sport and other relevant target sectors including media, technology and entertainment,” said Sally Dennis, Chair of Rugby Canada. “We were particularly impressed by SRIs quick grasp of the Canadian rugby landscape.”

“We are delighted to be partnering with Rugby Canada on this critical appointment and look forward to working with Sally Dennis and her Board,” stated David James, Global Head of Sport, SRI. “We have been excited and motivated by their outlook on the future for the sport in Canada and will conduct a genuinely global search to find a CEO capable of delivering that vision.”

Outgoing CEO Allen Vansen will complete his time with Rugby Canada on January 31, 2022 as previously announced. An interim CEO will be named this month to ensure a seamless transition to new leadership, with the new Chief Executive Officer expected to be in place by mid-2022.

Pemberton Holmes
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