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Blackett opts to stay on at RFU
ESPNscrum Staff
July 15, 2011

Judge Jeff Blackett has vowed to continue as honorary disciplinary officer of the Rugby Football Union.

Blackett had been considering his position after being disappointed with the RFU council's response to his report into the recruitment process which saw John Steele hired as chief executive - in particular the threat of legal action should the findings be published. Blackett today confirmed he would stay in his position, but made it clear he was unimpressed with the manner in which things had been handled.

In a statement released by the RFU, he said: "I have spent the last week considering my future as honorary disciplinary officer of the RFU. I have decided not to resign and, given the amount of media interest, I thought it important that I explain why."

Martyn Thomas was forced to resign as RFU chairman after a panel headed by Blackett produced a damning report into last month's sacking of Steele. Thomas warned he could take legal action if the report, which was thought to call on the chairman and eight of the RFU's nine non-executive board members to stand down immediately, was published.

"The report contains some criticism of the former chairman of the RFU, the board and some of the governance of the union," Blackett said. "We were particularly very disappointed about the amount of leaking of confidential information which caused significant reputational damage to the union.

"The recommendations were designed to restore confidence in the union, to begin to rebuild its tarnished reputation and to start a process to improve our governance. "Council received the report and, following extensive debate, they decided not to implement all of our recommendations and left those relating to governance on the table for further discussion. "They also voted after debate not to publish the report.

"Whether or not the report is published is now a matter for them and not me because they have taken ownership of it. My panel and I were disappointed by council's decisions and I indicated that I would have to consider my position.

"During the discussion the issue which caused me the most distress personally concerned a threat of legal proceedings against my panel for defamation if the report is published, which was served during the debate in council. Any such proceedings would not succeed but I felt that their, and my, integrity was being impugned.

"This whole episode has impacted on me personally much more than I expected. This, together with the amount of media attention, caused me to question whether I was causing damage to the RFU and to myself and my family by remaining as the disciplinary officer.

"Since it became public knowledge that I was considering resignation I have been overwhelmed by messages of support from all levels of rugby. Literally hundreds of people have urged me not to resign but to remain within the council to help to improve the governance of the union.

"The council and the wider rugby community is full of very good people whom I do not want to let down. I would like to thank everyone who has been in touch and promise to do all I can to repay the faith they have shown in me."

Blackett went on to call for an end to what has been a difficult period for the RFU with the departure of both their chief executive and chairman, though Thomas remains in his roles as acting chief executive, chairman of Rugby World Cup 2015, which will be staged in England, and RFU representative on the International Rugby Board.

"I believe council and the RFU are now at a very important crossroads," he said. "Council has reaffirmed its confidence in the board and must therefore also accept its responsibility to ensure that the board address the issues highlighted in the report.

"The acting chairman of the board [Paul Murphy] has given me his assurances that this will happen. I believe I can better assist this process by remaining as a member of council from where I can play an active role in holding the board and acting CEO to their commitments to improve governance and restore confidentiality.

"I have already started that process and am in regular dialogue with the president [Willie Wildash] and acting chairman to ensure that we do exercise close scrutiny over the affairs of the union and provide the necessary checks and balances. All of us on council must now start to rebuild relationships, put personal animosities aside and restore good governance to this union."

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