US Rugby Foundation Gets New Chief
By Brian Lowe
July 1, 2004
The United States Rugby Football Foundation has undergone some significant changes, including the appointment of a new chief executive and a move into new offices.
Effective Thursday, July 1, 2004, former US Eagles captain Brian Vizard takes over as the Foundation's Executive Director and the organization moves into the San Diego Hall of Champions in southern California.
Vizard replaces the outgoing Executive Director Bill Haffner, who served in the position for six years. The Foundation was previously headquartered in Colorado Springs, CO.
The Foundation's vision is to support the growth and quality of the game of rugby in the United States. While it is separate from USA Rugby, the Foundation supports the governing body's goals and will fund activities to help enhance its infrastructure, including coaching, refereeing and player development.
The Foundation is a major advocate of youth programs and provides grants to youth teams that are starting up, as well as to coaches and student exchanges internationally. One such program is a scholarship assistance plan with its International Board member Murray Mexted and his Rugby Academy in New Zealand.
On a broader perspective, it is becoming the 'Foundation for the Rugby Community' by using its non-profit status to assist clubs in starting accounts with it, and providing them with the not for profit umbrella so that they can solicit funding in tax deductible ways, such as the Tim Wilson Fund. This fund was set up to solicit tax deductible contributions to aid a former player who is severely disabled.
"We've been very fortunate in that Bill Haffner has provided a steady hand to the organization for the past six years, and we are most appreciative of his contributions," said Foundation Chairman Bob Watkins. "When he announced to us his retirement plans, the Board reluctantly accepted his wishes and began to focus on succession.
"After several attempts to convince Brian Vizard to come aboard, he accepted our offer to have him join us. One of his requirements was that we move the offices to San Diego, so we did. Our new home will be at the San Diego Hall of Champions, the nationally recognized center for sports. The Hall has a fabulous museum and hall of fame, media center and sports archives."
Brian Vizard brings a wealth of rugby knowledge and experience to the position of Executive Director. He was capped 22 times for the USA between 1986 and 1991, and had an integral role in the establishment of the US Rugby Super League.
"When Bob first proposed the position to me I was immediately interested," commented Vizard. "I was looking to get myself further involved with the growth of rugby in the United States and what better way than to raise money and provide the opportunity for teams and individuals to increase their knowledge of the sport at all levels.
"The fit had to be the right one for me, however, and after reading up on the Foundation and what it has accomplished to date, and where I believe it's headed, I knew this was the right decision.
"As those of us in the rugby community know, players, administrators and supporters are a loyal group who are passionate about their sport and there are many out there who are looking for a way to give back to the sport. It's my job to identify them.
"I am looking forward to the opportunity of taking the Foundation to the next level. We need to educate the rugby community on what the Foundation has accomplished over the past four decades and where it's headed."
Among Vizard's priorities will be the setting up of a Foundation web site, the creation of a donors' database, and the implementation of an annual fund raising campaign.