Friday 20 September 2019

Former chief executive and chairman of RFU stripped of 'privileged membership' for 'lack of respect'

Francis Baron
Francis Baron

Gavin Mairs

Francis Baron, the former chief executive of the Rugby Football Union, and Graeme Cattermole, a former chairman, have been stripped of their complimentary tickets and hospitality at Twickenham Tests after publicly raising concerns about its financial position.

The pair have been accused of showing “a lack of respect” after they claimed the RFU was in a perilous state, having written two reports analysing its financial affairs, details of which were published in The Daily Telegraph.

The RFU annual report published on Monday showed the governing body had made an operating loss of £30.9 million for 2017-18, although it said that was offset by a cash injection of £31.6 million from the restructuring of a Twickenham hospitality business. Steve Brown, the RFU chief executive, announced on the eve of England’s autumn international against Japan that he would step down from his £400,000 post at the end of the year, with insiders claiming he had become weary of “sniping and rugby politics”.

A motion to strip Baron, who was chief executive for 12 years before retiring in 2010, and Cattermole, who stepped down as chairman of the board in 2004, was proposed at council meeting at Twickenham last Friday and passed with a majority. Baron was told about the decision on Saturday morning and the RFU said in a letter it would honour the tickets he had for England’s victory over Australia that day, but that his privilege membership would be removed for the Six Nations Championship onwards.

Privilege membership is awarded to a small number of people each year in recognition of outstanding contributions to the game, and Baron was one of handful of former paid staff to have been granted it.Benefits include: two complimentary match tickets for Test matches at Twickenham, with the option to purchase four additional match tickets; one complimentary lunch, with the right to purchase an additional lunch; access for two to the members’ lounge, including free drinks; a complimentary dinner ticket, with the option to purchase an additional dinner ticket.

Chris Kelly, RFU president, said the decision to withdraw their “privilege membership” of the union had been taken because of a “lack of respect” shown by Baron and Cattermole in their criticism of the governing body.

“Respect and teamwork are two of rugby’s prized core values. Council awards privilege membership to a small number of people who have given outstanding service to the game and embody its core values,” Kelly said.

“At Friday’s Council meeting, members voted by an overwhelming majority to withdraw privilege membership from Francis Baron and Graeme Cattermole due to the clear lack of respect they have shown to the Union, our members and our staff.”

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It is not yet clear if Baron or Cattermole, who have declined to comment, are prepared to challenge the decision legally.

However, one senior RFU source was critical of the decision to take the vote without the pair being able to defend their actions.

“It is a fundamental right for shareholders or members of an organisation to question or criticise if necessary the financial administration of the union,” said the source.

“Are the members not able to question or criticise? They have a legitimate right to do that.”

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