England insist Johnson going nowhere
THE English RFU painted a picture yesterday of heading, as close as possible, towards a recession-proof future. At the same time it would appear that Martin Johnson, the England team manager, and his coaching panel are bulletproof up to the 2011 World Cup, despite their limited achievements.
Since he was appointed in 2008, England have a 42pc success record. But Johnson received a ringing endorsement from Martyn Thomas, the RFU management board chairman.
"He is there until 2011 and, in that role, Martin has the authority to appoint his coaches," Thomas said. "We feel he's doing a good job. We're disappointed about (third place in) the Six Nations and we need to see where we go in the summer tour to Australia."
Thomas indicated that the meetings with Australia in Perth and Sydney in June would not have a significant impact on the overall view: after that tour, Johnson will report to Rob Andrew, the RFU director of elite rugby, at roughly the same time as the union acquires a new chief executive in the wake of the retirement of Francis Baron on July 4.
The newcomer will surely take a fresh look at his executive staff, although Thomas said that there were no vacancies in the elite department after criticism of Andrew's contribution to England's mediocre record at senior level.
But Baron will leave behind a financial situation that bucks the economic trend and a sport that continues to draw consumers to Twickenham.
"We have had an excellent year commercially, which suggests our business model at Twickenham is working. It will make us financially stronger and recession-proof if we're not depending just on gate receipts, TV and sponsorship," Baron said. (© The Times, London)