RFL Chairman Richard Lewis will leave the governing body at the end of April to take up the role of Chief Executive of The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon.
Richard’s decade in charge at the RFL has seen the organisation acknowledged as one of the most efficient and professionally managed governing bodies in the country, and has recently been nominated for the prestigious Sports Governing Body of the Year Award for the second year in succession.
He leaves the RFL having overseen the latest round of record breaking TV contracts and with more people watching, viewing and participating in Rugby League than ever before.
RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood said: “It is my firm belief that history will record Richard’s stewardship of Rugby League as a golden decade for the sport where considerable progress was achieved across all fronts.
“He brought integrity, independence and credibility to everything he and the RFL did, and he leaves safe in the knowledge that the sport is undeniably in a far better condition than when he joined in 2002.”
Richard Lewis said: “I leave the RFL after 10 fulfilling years during which the sport has grown and prospered. I am extremely grateful to all the colleagues with whom I have had the privilege to work.
“Rugby League is a wonderful sport full of great people in both the professional and community games. I have enjoyed tremendous support during my tenure, from the Board, colleagues at the RFL and throughout the sport in general.
“I leave with a mixture of sadness but also excitement at taking up another wonderful opportunity.”
Senior non-executive director Maurice Watkins CBE will take over as Interim Chairman.
One of the most prominent lawyers in British sport, he is a senior partner at Brabners Chaffe Street in Manchester, a director of the world’s biggest football club, Manchester United, and Chairman of the Greyhound Board of Great Britain.
Maurice is recognised throughout the professional football establishment for the contribution he has made to shaping the framework within which professional soccer operates both domestically and internationally. He played a key role in the establishment of the Premier League and continues to sit on its legal advisory group.
Maurice Watkins said: “We are indebted to Richard for the huge contribution he has made to Rugby League over the past 10 years, and we wish him every success in his new role.
“I will be working with my board colleagues to identify the skills we require for a new Chairman to take the game on to the next exciting stage of its development.
“At the same time we will take this opportunity to review the game’s governance arrangements for the next era, in consultation with all our stakeholders.
“Whilst tough economic conditions are proving challenging for all sports clubs at present, we believe this is a great moment for someone to come in and help shape the future of a very successful sport.
“The Stobart Super League and Co-operative Championship seasons have started well, spectators and TV audiences are growing, the community game now has teams in all but one of the English counties, and we have all of the excitement of a World Cup in the UK next year.
“This is a very exciting period for Rugby League and we expect there to be considerable interest from high quality candidates who wish to build on Richard’s achievements in the role of Chairman.”