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Welsh Rugby Players Association appoints Chief Executive from UK’s largest leisure operator

 The Welsh Rugby Players Association (WRPA), which represents and supports professional rugby players in Wales, has appointed Barry Cawte as its new Chief Executive.

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Cawte will join the WRPA on Monday 9th September from the UK’s largest leisure operator, GLL (Greenwich Leisure Limited), which runs more than 350 public sport and leisure centres, including the London Aquatics Centre and Copper Box Arena opened for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Cawte leads tennis, football and a range of specialist sports throughout GLL’s venues across the UK in his capacity as National Tennis and Specialist Sport Manager for the group. Under Cawte’s guidance, GLL has become the public sector’s leading organisation in tennis. In 2018 he became the independent Chair of Tennis Wales, where he is responsible for the strategic direction, vision and overall approach of the national governing body for tennis in Wales.


Previously he led a newly-formed charitable social enterprise that saved Swansea Tennis Centre from permanent closure and instead transformed it into one of the best facilities of its kind in Wales. Cawte then worked as a consultant to the Tennis Foundation and Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to turn the fortunes of several other tennis facilities around the UK. Cawte has held a range of other commercial roles over a 20-year career in sport and leisure.

As the WRPA’s Chief Executive, Cawte will lead the association in its efforts to represent, develop, promote and protect its members and their interests. He succeeds former Wales international back-row forward and Cardiff Blues captain, Andries Pretorius, who led the organisation for two years.

Ken Owens, WRPA Chairman and Scarlets, Wales and British & Irish Lions hooker, said:

“This was a hotly-contested role and we were delighted by the calibre of applicants who wanted to support rugby players in Wales by helping to take our organisation forwards. I’m confident the WRPA will develop under Barry’s leadership to do even more for players and play a role in furthering Welsh Rugby, for everyone’s benefit. Players are key stakeholders in the game and it’s important we have a voice as we work together to take the opportunities and meet the challenges ahead for the game.”

Barry Cawte said:

“I’m delighted to be joining the fantastic team at the WRPA to build on the great work already done by the organisation in recent years. I’m determined to ensure Welsh rugby players have a courageous, influential and powerful voice in our sport and this can be achieved with the support of our members, stakeholders and current and future partners. I want to ensure we have a thriving players’ association able to deliver our vision and make a difference to our players and the game across Wales.”

Reporting into the WRPA Chief Executive is Philippa Hearnden, the organisation’s Business Support Executive, and four Personal Development Managers, one dedicated to each Regional side, who deliver Welsh Rugby’s personal development and wellbeing programme for professional players. These are: Phil Davies (Cardiff Blues), Dan Owens (Dragons), Tim Jones (Ospreys) and Adam Thomas (Scarlets).

The WRPA Executive Board consists of representatives from each of the four Regions. Currently, these are: Ken Owens (Chairman) and Jake Ball (both Scarlets), James King and Dan Lydiate (both Ospreys), Ellis Jenkins and Josh Turnbull (both Cardiff Blues), Lewis Evans and Tyler Morgan (both Dragons).

The WRPA is also supported by a Non-Executive Board consisting of four non-executive directors, who provide their time on a voluntary basis to help the organisation to deliver its mission of acting as a force for good for rugby players and the game in Wales.

The WRPA’s Non-Executive Board Directors are: Gerry Stacey, who for a decade was Coca-Cola Enterprises’ Regional Director for Wales and West and is now a leading business and leadership advisor; Scott Bowers, Group Director of Corporate Affairs and Communications at The Jockey Club and one of the sports industry’s leading communications professionals; Damian Phillips, Partner at law firm Darwin Gray LLP and one of the UK’s leading lawyers in the employment and sports sectors; and Adam Williams, who is International Director at the UK Intellectual Property Office and previously worked in the UK Government on Defence policy matters, with extensive experience dealing with complex negotiations.