Three key appointments to strengthen RFL Board

4th October 2019

Simon Johnson has been appointed as Chair of a reshaped Rugby Football League Board including two new Non-Executive Directors: Dr Rimla Akhtar MBE and Sandy Lindsay MBE.

The appointments follow an Independent Board Evaluation commissioned in late 2018 which recommended an expansion of the RFL Board to be fit for the future.

Independent executive search specialists were appointed to steer a rigorous process which has involved representatives of all sections of the game – Super League, Championship / League One and the Community Game – in addition to Sport England.

The appointments will be presented for ratification to December’s meeting of the Rugby League Council.

The appointments:

RFL Chair – Simon Johnson joined the RFL Board in July 2014, and was appointed Interim Chair earlier this year. He is the Chief Executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, and has had a 20-year career operating at the highest levels of the sports and media industries – including spells as senior lawyer at the Premier League, and Director of Corporate Affairs at The Football Association. Previously, he had spent 10 years with ITV, the majority as Director of Rights and Business Affairs.

RFL Non-Executive Director – Dr Rimla Akhtar MBE has over 18 years’ experience in the sports industry across the UK, Middle East and Asia, after a successful career in the City at leading global professional services firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers. In 2014, she became the first Muslim and Asian woman on the FA Council in addition to her role on the Inclusion Advisory Board at the FA, and in 2015 she was awarded an MBE for her contribution to equality and diversity in sport. She holds a portfolio of additional strategic and boardroom roles, including as an Independent Director of the Sports Ground Safety Authority, and Council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. She was ranked 14th in the 2018 Forbes global list of the most powerful women in sport. She founded the leading global sport development consultancy, RimJhim Consulting; she was Chair of the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation until December 2018; and co-founded the global Muslim Women in Sport Network.

RFL Non-Executive Director – Sandy Lindsay MBE is Chair of Tangerine, the specialist creative communications agency she founded in Manchester in 2002. In 2015 she was awarded the MBE for services to business and young people, and in the same year she was named North West Director of the Year by the Institute of Directors (and Highly Commended in the same awards nationally). That followed the launch in 2013 of The Juice Academy, the UK’s first industry-led social media apprenticeship which has created jobs for almost 350 young people in the North West. A champion of social mobility, Sandy chairs Skills Groups for the North West Business Leadership Team and the Institute of Directors, is on the Business Leadership Council of Teach First, Vice Chair of Forever Manchester and is a Non-Executive Director of Flock and Northcoders.

In their own words

Simon Johnson: “I am thrilled and honoured to have been nominated to be Chair of the Rugby Football League. I am particularly proud to be able to lead a reshaped Board, with the right combination of continuity and experience, and a fresh and different approach. As recommended in the Independent Board Evaluation conducted earlier this year, we have added a new range of skills with our new NED appointments. The Board will look and feel different, bringing increased diversity of thinking and experience. The Board will be forward-thinking and will aim to be open and transparent, to promote a compelling narrative about Rugby League and be articulate in showing strategic leadership to the game and the public.”

Dr Rimla Akhtar MBE: “This is an exciting time to become a member of the RFL Board.  Whether it’s the World Cup in 2021 and its legacy, the huge potential for growth in the women’s game, or the way that this sport reaches communities that other sports do not, there are so many opportunities to grow the game from grassroots through to professional. Having followed Rugby League for a number of years and now having had the opportunity to meet those who have dedicated much of their lives to the game, I’m honoured and cannot wait to help shape the future for this sport that is loved by everyone who engages with it.”

Sandy Lindsay MBE: “The Rugby Football League role ‘found me’ at a time when I was looking to spread my wings into new and exciting sectors and challenges, having recently put Tangerine into Employee Ownership. The League has been through interesting times of late and there are very exciting growth opportunities to be had, especially with the World Cup on the horizon in 2021. I’m very much looking forward also to seeing how I can bring my community and business links into play on behalf of the sport.”

Additional notes

Chris Brindley MBE is now the RFL’s Senior Non-Executive Director, having been appointed in 2016 and reappointed this summer for a second three-year term.

Chris Hurst was appointed a Non-Executive Director in December 2018, and will be joined by Dr Rimla Akhtar MBE and Sandy Lindsay MBE as additional NEDs this December, subject to ratification by the Rugby League Council.

Executive Directors Ralph Rimmer and Karen Moorhouse – the RFL’s Chief Executive and Chief Regulatory Officer – complete what will become a seven-strong Board.

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