Welsh rugby’s Professional Rugby Board (PRB) has appointed a new independent chair, Amanda Blanc, who is a former chief executive of Zurich Insurance Group for Europe, Middle East and Africa.
The appointment was made after an intensive recruitment process which attracted high calibre applicants from a range of blue-chip organisations.
Amanda is a senior business woman who has also been group chief executive of AXA UK, PPP & Ireland during a distinguished 30 year career, she has previously been named Woman of Achievement by Women in the City and twice been voted the UK Insurer CEO’s CEO of the Year (2013 and 2015), as well as featuring on the 2019 list of Yahoo Finance’s 100 Women Executives.
She is originally from Treherbert in the Rhondda Fawr valley and automatically joins the Welsh Rugby Union Board (WRU) by virtue of her position as the chair of the PRB, succeeding David Lovett.
"A passion for Wales, for Welsh rugby and the communities that the game serves around the country has brought me to this role and I am relishing the challenge ahead," said Amanda.
"The PRB obviously has a vital and integral role to play, not only in safeguarding the future of our national game, but also ensuring that it thrives at a time of huge potential change and it will be a great pleasure to do all that I can to help facilitate its aims and ambitions.
"I am looking forward to bringing my corporate board experience to the WRU and PRB; having been used to the complexities involved in running large organisations I know that this will be invaluable in helping Welsh rugby strive towards achieving greater success."
The PRB is a gathering of representatives from each of the five professional entities in Welsh rugby and consists of the four regional chairmen, Alun Jones (Cardiff Blues), David Buttress (Dragons), Rob Davies (Ospreys) and Nigel Short (Scarlets), WRU CEO Martyn Phillips, WRU finance director Steve Phillips and two independent members (one of whom is chair – this position is to be filled by Amanda Blanc after approval by WRU Board yesterday [Thursday] – with another independent member to be recruited).
It has operated as a sub-Board of the WRU since a modernised governance structure was passed by its members, clubs and districts at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in October 2018 and its stated general approach is to ensure all five entities have equal opportunity for success, empowered by the access it has to the commercial inventory of its constituent parts.
Its most significant achievement to date has been to establish a new Professional Rugby Agreement (PRA) – secured early as the old Rugby Services Agreement was not due to expire until June 2020 – for the professional game in Wales, which has led to a doubling in direct funding by the WRU from c£10m to c£20m per annum, excluding competition income, and came into effect on 31st January 2019.
Amanda becomes the third female Board member of the WRU, joining Liza Burgess – who became the first woman to be elected to the Board at the AGM in October 2019 – and non-executive director Aileen Richards who has been in place since her appointment in 2015.
"This is a hugely significant appointment for the PRB, but one which will also have direct and positive impact on the WRU Board," said Richards.
"To attract someone of Amanda’s experience shows the high esteem in which Welsh rugby is held around the world and I’m, personally, greatly looking forward to working with her in the best interests of our national game in the years ahead."
Amanda has wide-ranging experience in the boardroom having chaired many organisations, subsidiaries and committees and sat on various regulated boards across Europe.
She is a former chair of the Association of British Insurers, a past president of the Chartered Insurance Institute, a former chair of the Insurance Fraud Bureau, a previous chair of the ABI’s General Insurance Committee and a past member of the UK Takeover Panel.
She has recently been announced as a non-executive director at Aviva Plc and will also become chair of the Board at the Lloyd’s of London syndicate, ERS.
"Amanda is an important addition to both the WRU Board and the PRB, not least because she comes with a skillset and high level of business experience in the financial sector unrivalled elsewhere," said WRU chairman Gareth Davies.
"And, of course, to have another female voice, in a Boardroom which has been a traditionally male environment, is a hugely welcome by-product of securing the services of such a high calibre business-woman.
"Chairing PRB meetings is not an easy task, with five separate entities determined to pull in the same direction and speak with one voice off the pitch, but with necessarily conflicting agendas on it and I would like to take this opportunity to offer the sincere gratitude of Welsh rugby to David Lovett who has been chair since its inception and without whom the PRB would not be the dynamic, forward thinking and progressive body it is today.
"It is widely known that these are changing times for the world game, with talk of new structures and potential new ownership rife and it will be part of Amanda’s challenge to help ensure the PRB and Welsh rugby not only keeps pace but takes its place, rightly, at the forefront of imminent progress."
Incumbent PRB chair Lovett will continue to attend meetings during a transition period to ensure an orderly handover.