Ralph Rimmer to stand down as RFL chief executive at end of the year

Ralph Rimmer to stand down as RFL chief executive at end of the year

The Rugby Football League chief executive, Ralph Rimmer, has said the time is right for him to step down while defending his record as the head of rugby league’s governing body. Rimmer will leave the RFL in December after almost five years as chief executive. The chief regulatory officer, Karen Moorhouse, will also depart, marking a major change at the top of the sport.

The RFL has just begun a 12-year strategic partnership with the media giant IMG, which could lead to a major restructure of how the game is governed. After a comprehensive review this summer, IMG will make its recommendations to clubs and the governing body this month about how much change it thinks should be implemented, which could lead to developments including a restructure of the domestic leagues.

Rimmer wants to give his successor as much time as possible to take the game forward. “I’m very aware you should never outstay your welcome,” he said. “It’s the right thing to do at the right time. I’d started discussions with IMG last summer and I could see a clear finishing line.

“The first six months of this new direction with IMG is critical and there should be someone put in place who’s going to be here for a while. We’re going into a new era, with a new structure with new personnel and it’s important that happens. The only thing I want is for it to be successful.”

Rimmer said he would have no say in who replaces him but with a new commercial venture being formed to improve the sport’s off-field prospects he believes any successor will take on an evolved version of his role. “It’ll be different,” he said. “There’s a new relationship to form and that’ll be interesting and it’s important that person has an oversight on the whole organisation.”

Rimmer stressed he felt the current hierarchy was leaving the game in good health. “We’re in a better place than we were originally,” he said. “But we’re very keen not to taint the IMG recommendations. Nobody knows what they’re going to recommend, and we knew that if we left this to after the announcements, it would look reactionary and damage it. We didn’t want to do that.”

The RFL board, led by the chairman, Simon Johnson, will decide Rimmer’s replacement. Johnson said someone with a knowledge of rugby league would be preferable but stopped short of discussing whether Jon Dutton, the chief executive of this year’s World Cup, seen by many as a future leader for the sport, would be a good fit.

“I’m not going to answer that,” Rimmer said. “But I will say that Jon is exceptional. His skills are slightly different but despite all the pressure they’ve faced, he and his team they will deliver the best Rugby League World Cup this year. He’s top-class. I’m not sure whether he’d be interested but we’ll see.”