Industry reacts to Sweeney switch

20 Feb 2019

By: Sport Industry Group

The sport industry has been reacting to news that Bill Sweeney is to switch the Chief Executive position at the British Olympic Association (BOA) for the top job at the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

It follows Steve Brown’s departure from Twickenham at the end of last year amid concern over the RFU’s finances.

The organisation posted a £30.9m loss in the year to June 2018 and made 54 employees redundant at the end of last year.

Sweeney will leave the BOA at a date still to be announced, after five years in which he oversaw record-breaking Team GB performances at the Sochi 2014, Rio 2016 and Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games.

BOA Chair Hugh Robertson reacted with dismay to the decision of the former Adidas VP and Puma Head of Business Development to leave with less than 18 months to go until the Tokyo 2020 Games.

He said: “I am disappointed to be losing Bill, especially at this stage of the Tokyo 2020 cycle.

“He leaves after strong performances for Team GB in Sochi, Rio and PyeongChang, our total revenue for the Tokyo 2020 quad 73% secured and all of our major Games-time facilities agreed.

“We wish him well in his new role with the RFU.”

Sweeney will leave the BOA in strong commercial health, following the conclusion of a string of significant Tokyo 2020 partnership deals.

He said: "I leave behind a very strong British Olympic Association, both financially and in readiness for Tokyo 2020. This is the only opportunity that I would have left the BOA for.

“From the grassroots game to our England teams, rugby’s values and opportunities are very special. I am passionate about the game and it is an honour to be joining the RFU team."

RFU Chairman Andy Cosslett welcomed Sweeney's appointment, saying: "We are delighted to announce Bill’s appointment as CEO. He brings a rare combination of experience from the worlds of blue chip business and elite sport and has a tremendous track record in both. His passion for the game is deep rooted and this will stand him in very good stead."

The announcement of Sweeney’s appointment coincided with news that RFU Director of Digital, Marketing and Communications Joanna Manning-Cooper is to leave the organisation to take up a new role at Sky as Group Director of Corporate Affairs.

The former London 2012 press chief, who has been based at Twickenham since 2013, will take on responsibility for corporate communications, internal communications, Sky Ocean Ventures and the Bigger Picture, reporting directly to Debbie Klein, Sky’s Group Chief Marketing, Corporate Affairs and People Officer.