English rugby is 'on the cusp of something quite spectacular' - RFU CEO Bill Sweeney

Bill Sweeney feels the RFU is in a much better situation than five years back
Bill Sweeney feels the RFU is in a much better situation than five years back

The chief executive of the Rugby Football Union (RFU) Bill Sweeney has expressed optimism about the future of English rugby, describing it as being "on the verge of something truly remarkable."

This positive outlook comes despite a challenging year for the sport, which witnessed the financial struggles of four professional clubs, the dismissal of England's head coach Eddie Jones, and the introduction of a controversial tackle height rule change in community rugby.

Wasps, Worcester and London Irish have entered into administration over the last 12 months while Jersey Reds ceased trading due to financial crisis.

Despite the setbacks, Sweeney said the board and the Rugby Players' Association are in discussion over a new Professional Game Partnership that will see them adopt a cohesive approach with the hope of mitigating the long-standing club-versus-country tensions.

“I do believe that we are on the cusp of something quite spectacular here,” said Sweeney.

“This has been a unique moment in time, because of the financial challenges, the working relationship with PRL and our ability to change the relationship around the partnership, to fix the things that have stopped us winning Six Nations championships on a regular basis.

“The work we are doing with World Rugby around the Nations Cup and global calendar plays into this as well. I feel that I have the energy, passion and desire to see this through.

“We’ve gone through a very difficult period but coming out of that I feel we are going to have more robust financial controls in place to enable us to deal with that. The broadcast market is tough. There is a lack of competition in that, but we do feel that is shifting. There are a lot of things happening in terms of competition structures that will provide a more compelling product.

“I still believe in rugby as a sport. I sometimes think we look at things a bit from a half-empty perspective and we need to be more optimistic in terms of the direction things are heading in.

“We’ve gone through some really dark and difficult times but we can see what we need to do to make it better.”