Welsh Rugby Union to appoint first female chief executive

Post date:



Abi Tierney is a former director general of the HM Passport Office and UK Visas and Immigration

Abi Tierney is a former director general of the HM Passport Office and UK Visas and Immigration

The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) is set to appoint its first female chief executive in Abi Tierney.

Tierney was appointed director general of the HM Passport Office and UK Visas and Immigration in February 2020.

Tierney replaces Steve Phillips who resigned in January 2023 after allegations of sexism at the WRU following a BBC Wales investigation.

Nigel Walker held an interim role but has since been appointed the WRU’s first executive director of rugby.

It would be the second major appointment after Richard Collier-Keywood became the first WRU independent chair when he replaced the elected Ieuan Evans.

Who is Abi Tierney?

Tierney is director general leading customer services and was appointed to the role of Home Office ethics adviser in June 2023.

Before joining the Civil Service, Tierney was the business development director at Serco Health where she was responsible for providing strategic direction to help the business grow.

She also held a number of operational roles in Serco, including regional director and chief executive of Suffolk Community Services.

Tierney was a director at University Hospitals of Leicester and Aberdeen City Council, and was previously marketing leader for IBM’s global services business.

WRU reform

Walker was thrust into the WRU interim role following Phillips’ departure after a BBC Wales Investigates programme raised allegations of misogyny and sexism in Welsh rugby’s governing body.

Former head of Sport Wales Walker had initially been interested in the permanent role but says he withdrew his interest “at an early stage”.

Walker campaigned alongside former WRU chair Evans for governance modernisation which was passed with a 97% majority at an extraordinary general meeting in March 2023, which paved the way for Collier-Keywood’s appointment.

Walker also helped guide the WRU through the current independent review taskforce process and was instrumental in negotiating a new six-year Professional Rugby Agreement (PRA) with Wales’ four regional teams.

Former judge Dame Anne Rafferty is chairing a panel conducting a review into the WRU’s conduct which begun in February.

The panel includes former England international and World Cup winner Maggie Alphonsi and mediator Quentin Smith, a former chair of Sale Sharks and current chair of the Football Association’s exceptions panel.

The WRU said recommendations and findings from previous reviews will be used to inform the investigation, but the new taskforce will not be asked to duplicate work previously done.

The panel will produce a report and make recommendations which will be published in full.

Credit To Onwer