It was announced today that Nigel Melville will be taking over as the Director of Professional Rugby for the Rugby Football Union, the governing body for England Rugby. This comes of the heels of former Director of Professional Rugby, Rob Andrews, stepping down from the role. It has been known since the summer of 2015 that Nigel Melville intended to not continue his contract role as the Chief Executive Officer of USA Rugby, but it was expected that he would continue to hold the position of CEO of Rugby International Marketing (RIM), the for profit hand of USA Rugby.
This announcement comes with a series of mixed emotions. There is no doubt that Melville’s tenure with USA Rugby has been met with mixture of gratitude and criticism. Many have felt that Melville came to USA Rugby and didn’t fully maximize the value of the assets that were available for USA Rugby. Whether it was coaching hires, or questions about his salary. On the flip side, the achievements that have been made under his era have been remarkable, such as:
- Rugby becoming the fastest growing team sport in the United States and has held that title for the last three years with record-setting membership levels
- Creation of the award winning Rookie Rugby program that now includes over two million boys and girls (aged 6-12 years) participating across 43 State Rugby Organizations
- Creation of the USA Rugby Olympic residency program at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista and recent qualification of both the Men’s Eagles Sevens and Women’s Eagles Sevens teams for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Record attendance at numerous international events, including the 62,000 strong sell-out crowd for the 2014 match between the New Zealand All Blacks and USA Eagles at Chicago’s Soldier Field
- Development of the Americas Rugby Championship to establish a high-level international competition between North and South America
- Winning the bid to host the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco, California
The search for the new CEO of Rugby International Marketing is already on and kicking. USA Rugby is being left with a lot of expectations. That’s definitely not a negative. With the development of PRO Rugby, the growth of the national rugby sides, and development of the youth and collegiate rugby side, there is plenty to work with for USA Rugby. I personally have never fully understood the issue that people had with Nigel Melville. So I wish him all the best of luck in his new venture. USA Rugby, and RIM have the challenge of finding the correct CEO to push rugby in the USA over the edge.