Nigel Melville leaves his post as Chief Executive Officer of USA Rugby this week and his successor has a hard act follow.
Former England scrum-half Melville, 55, departs after nine and a half years at the helm to take up the role of Director of Professional Rugby for the Rugby Football Union (RFU).
Melville, who admits when he arrived in 2007 he simply “had to get the ball in the hands of as many kids as possible” will leave a huge void and exits the organization in a position of strength. He is though sure the game will “get bigger and bigger”, but that brief will now be in the hands of his successor and there have been in excess of 150 candidates for the post.
USA Rugby this week announced the appointment of Jim Snyder as Acting Chief Executive Officer. Snyder will retain his current responsibilities as Chief Financial Officer, while USA Rugby also announced their search for a new CEO continues and is in the “final stages.”
“We have had an extremely strong candidate pool for the position of CEO,” USA Rugby Chairman of the Board Bob Latham told USARugby.org. “The remaining candidates all possess an impressive level of experience and talents. I have no doubt that the future of USA Rugby will be in good hands.”
While several applicants are believed to have strong resumes; the new man will have a difficult act to follow with Melville boasting a record which includes boosting registered rugby players from 50,000 in 2007 to over 115,000 at the current time.
“When I first came here it wasn’t really doing anything and it wasn’t really going anywhere,” said Melville, who was responsible for organizing an international rugby union match between the USA Eagles and the New Zealand All Blacks at Soldier Field, the home of the Chicago Bears, which was a 62,000 sell-out.
It was a proud moment for the Yorkshireman, who can only see the game in the US grow: “The bottom line is that it’s growing… it won’t go backwards now, it’ll get bigger and bigger,” added Melville.
Described as having one of the best passes in the game and captaining England on three separate occasions Melville’s leadership qualities came to the fore at USA Rugby.
Within three years of his appointment his urgency “to get the ball in the hands of kids” saw nearly two million American kids participate in ‘Rookie Rugby’. And from that moment Melville says he could “see the pathway develop – it brings growth in schools, in colleges and eventually in clubs”.
- Rugby is the fastest growing sport in North America.
- Youth Rugby has increased 25% over the last three years.
- Rugby is the fastest growing collegiate sport for both men and women.
- Rugby is the 3rd largest sporting event in the world behind only soccer and the Olympics
The potential for future growth at collegiate level is huge and one which the role’s new incumbent will surely be looking to develop. While Melville’s mantra of trying “to create a game that embraces tradition and brings to the table all that is great about American sport” will probably still be hanging on the wall at his Colorado headquarters.
“If you can get the right athletes with the right coaches, you can really make progress,” added Melville, who can also boast a key role in winning the bid to host the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco – a “truly historic moment”.
USA Rugby’s loss will by the RFU’s gain, but Melville leaves the state of the game in a far rosier place than when he arrived almost a decade ago and there are certainly no hard feelings on USA Rugby’s part.
“He has propelled USA Rugby forward on every level. He leaves with our everlasting gratitude, our blessings, and our expectations that he will remain a friend of USA Rugby in his new position,” added Latham.
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