World Rugby chief Brett Gosper is to step down in January to take up a new role as head of the NFL in Europe and the UK, it was announced on Wednesday.
During Gosper’s nine-year spell at the sport’s global governing body, sevens became part of the Olympic programme and the World Cup was staged in Asia for the first time.
Chief operating officer Alan Gilpin will perform the role of interim CEO until Gosper’s replacement is appointed.
“It’s been a fantastic nine years,” said Gosper, a former Australian under-21 international who played club rugby in France.
“It has been an absolute privilege to have worked with so many talented and dedicated rugby people around the world.
“Rugby is a wonderful sport and World Rugby is a fantastic organisation, and therefore it was a very difficult decision to leave.
“But with a new ambitious strategic plan set to launch and the strong foundations in place to drive the sport forward beyond the pandemic, the time is right for me to begin a new challenge.”
Christopher Halpin, NFL executive vice president and chief strategy and growth officer, praised Gosper’s “exceptional skills and experience”.
“The UK has been a core market of investment and growth for the NFL over the last decade, and we believe broader Europe presents a number of similar attractive opportunities to expand the game and our fan base,” he said.
“Brett’s exceptional skills and experience make him the ideal leader to build on our momentum and grow the NFL.”