Abi Tierney, one of the UK’s senior civil servants, will be the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU).
The Director General for Customer Services at the Home Office will join the WRU by the end of this year after serving notice at the Home Office, where she is also Ethics Advisor and Chair of their People Committee.
Before joining the Civil Service, Abi Tierney was a Business Development Director at Serco, where she also held a number of operational roles, including Regional Director and Chief Executive of Suffolk Community Services.
Prior to this, she was a Director at University Hospitals of Leicester and Aberdeen City Council and was previously Marketing Leader for IBM’s Global Services Business.
She will take over from interim CEO Nigel Walker – with a new role for Walker already announced – and join a new-look WRU Board, headed by its first appointed independent non-executive (INED) Chair Richard Collier-Keywood, who officially took up post himself in July.
“Abi’s appointment is a major coup for Welsh rugby,” said Collier-Keywood, who has succeeded Ieuan Evans as chair after the latter campaigned himself for the appointment of an INED to the position, culminating in a 97% positive vote of member clubs in March this year.
“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.”
She has strong family connections in Barry, where her father originated. Her dad grew up one of six children and was part of a close-knit extended family. They were all passionate fans of Welsh rugby and Barry Rugby Club was at the heart of their social connections and Abi’s father played rugby for Barry, Dina Powys and Glamorgan Wanderers. Abi has followed her family’s tradition and is a life-long supporter of Wales.
She is no stranger to Principality Stadium and says she is so lucky and fortunate to be combining one of her major passions with a her working life, when taking on the challenge of becoming the new WRU CEO.
“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,” she said.
“My passion and commitment for this role is unquestionable and I feel a huge sense of pride having grown up in a family where mydDad 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 executive 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.”
In a re-shuffle of the WRU’s executive announced last month (July) Nigel Walker has been appointed to a new position of executive rirector of rugby and will take up this role permanently in coordination with the new CEO’s arrival. At this time Huw Bevan, as interim Performance Director, Geraint John, as Community Director and each of Wales’ senior squad head coaches, Warren Gatland and Ioan Cunningham, will continue to report directly into Walker, as the new executive director of rugby.
“I very much welcome Abi’s appointment ,” added Walker. “I look forward to working closely with Abi to secure a positive and sustainable future for Welsh rugby.
“There is still much hard work to do, but we will continue to progress together and I remain hugely optimistic about the future of our game,”
When Tierney joins the WRU officially at the end of the year, she will join a revamped Board which already includes new INED director Alison Thorne, who became an official Board member at the start of this month (August) with incumbent Chris Morgan standing down to allow the move, and new chair Richard Collier-Keywood. The WRU’s stated – and member approved – ambition to ensure that at least 40% of its 12-person Board should be women (ie five individuals – currently 11 of the 12 Board members are male) remains on course.
Recruitment is still 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 where diversity in candidate applications has been strongly encouraged.