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Abi Tierney appointment as WRU CEO ‘a major coup for Welsh rugby’

17 Aug 2023 3 minute read
New WRU CEO Abi Tierney

Abi Tierney has been appointed the first female chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union.

Tierney will join the WRU before the end of 2023 after serving notice at the Home Office, where she is the director general for customer services and ethics advisor and chair of their people committee.

Her appointment comes nearly seven months after Steve Phillips resigned as WRU chief executive amid allegations of a “toxic culture” at the organisation.

“Abi’s appointment is a major coup for Welsh rugby,” said Richard Collier-Keywood, who succeeded former Wales wing Ieuan Evans as WRU chair last month.

“She has worked successfully across the private and public sectors in delivering commercial value and improving the culture of some complex organisations.

“The role of the WRU is to support and serve Welsh rugby across our elite teams to our 270 community clubs.

“Her mantra of ‘putting customers at the heart of everything we do’ bodes well for the many fans of rugby in Wales.

“I believe Abi will make a major contribution to our enjoyment of all aspects of the game in Wales. I am delighted she has decided to join us.”


Welsh rugby was rocked in January by a BBC documentary which aired allegations of racism, misogyny, sexism and homophobia at the WRU.

A committee of Senedd members noted in June that the WRU was responsible for a “serious failure of governance” and missed opportunities to act on concerning behaviour within the organisation.

Tierney will take over from interim chief executive Nigel Walker, the former Olympic hurdler and Wales international who will now become the WRU’s first director of rugby.

Tierney said: “The opportunity to lead the Welsh Rugby Union is an immense privilege and I relish the chance to make a lasting positive difference at such a critical time.

“My passion and commitment for this role is unquestionable and I feel a huge sense of pride having grown up in a family where my dad is from Barry and where rugby has been a constant and positive force in our lives.

“Rugby has the ability to enable life chances and develop people on and off the pitch. In this role, I intend to take that heritage and the skills and learning I have gathered in my career to deliver the significant cultural advancement Welsh rugby deserves. I have a track record in positively shaping an organisation’s culture.

“I am an inclusive leader and I will do my utmost to promote belonging, trust, understanding and mutual support at all levels in Welsh rugby.

“Alongside Richard as chair, Nigel in his new and vitally important role as director of rugby and my colleagues on the board, and the rest of the executive staff, we will realise the full potential of Welsh rugby in the years ahead and I look forward to the challenge.”

Tierney will join a revamped board which already includes new independent non-executive director Alison Thorne, with Chris Morgan standing down to allow the move.

The WRU says its stated – and member approved – ambition to ensure that at least 40 per cent of its 12-person board should be women remains on course.

Recruitment is ongoing for a further INED appointment, as well as a board member with specific responsibility for the women’s game and further elections for new council members are taking place this summer.

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Richard Jenkins
Richard Jenkins
8 months ago

Hopefully, good news but will she prioritise a redirection of the WRU marketing strategy? We need a to emphasise our identity. Reinforcing our culture & the huge part rugby has played in that. She must step back from our affiliation with the ENGLISH crown. Remove the Germanic feathers. Make attendance at international rugby matches a financially achievable goal again.

Terry Mackie
Terry Mackie
8 months ago

Richard, Abi is of Wales and for Wales. I know that for a fact. Her experience in govt, private industry and public services must be given support as we are in a terrible fix. The guys have forever messed up; she will have new eyes and as far as I can see no limiting allegiances.

I don’t want to demand anything particular of her except that she respects our culture (which is also hers) and shows true leadership. For too long corruption and decay have defined our rugby governance. Give her a chance.

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