Tony Sutton appointed RFL chief executive

Drew Darbyshire
Tony Sutton Rugby Football League RFL SWpix

Photo: Simon Wilkinson/SWpix

The Rugby Football League have appointed Tony Sutton as their chief executive officer on a permanent basis, taking over from Ralph Rimmer.

The 49-year-old has been in the role on an interim basis for the last three months following the departure of Ralph Rimmer in December.

Originally from Hull, Sutton has been working with the RFL since January 2017, when he was appointed director of finance and facilities. He then became chief operating officer two years later.

RFL chair Simon Johnson said: “Tony has made a highly positive impact in the months since he was appointed interim CEO, and from our angle has really grown into the role, with a distinctive and different style.

“He has impressed everyone with his ambition, passion and commitment to creating the right culture for high performance at the RFL.

“He was already well-respected by staff, clubs, partners and other stakeholders, as a result of his work as Director of Finance and Facilities and since 2019 as Chief Operating Officer.

“Tony played a key role in the strategic realignment of the sport, as well as developing the relationship with IMG as our partner. He will be able to use those relationships and learnings to drive the sport forward at this exciting time.”

The RFL say a comprehensive search process was led by Perrett Laver, the international executive recruitment specialists. The governing body said candidates from around the world were assessed by a panel involving club CEOs, partners from Sport England, and the media, with final interviews held last week.

Tony Sutton on becoming RFL chief executive

Sutton joined the RFL from the Hull College Group, were he had been chief operating officer. Before that, he worked for 13 years at Hull FC in a range of roles including financial controller, finance director and chief operating officer.

On becoming CEO of the RFL, he said: “This is a pivotal and exciting time for the sport of rugby league, and I am immensely proud and privileged to have been given the opportunity to lead the RFL.

“I was new to rugby league when I joined Hull FC. But the best part of 14 years at the club left a deep impression on me – in terms of the importance of our clubs to their fans and the communities in which they are rooted; and in the brilliance, athleticism and humility of the players who deliver such a thrilling spectacle.

“In six years with the RFL, I have seen first-hand the level of commitment delivered by some incredible people, now including RL Commercial.

“We relish the challenges ahead, working with our strategic partners at IMG, our clubs, our broadcast and commercial partners; and our many other stakeholders – with a focus on looking after our people; and the sport’s participants, maximising our Reimagining Rugby League project and continuing to deliver our community strategy, to make our sport as inclusive, accessible and engaging as possible.”

Sutton will become an executive member of the RFL board, joining the non-executive directors Sandy Lindsay MBE, Dr Rimla Akhtar OBE, Dr Cherrie Daley and chair Johnson.

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