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New Connacht Chief Executive Announced

New Connacht Chief Executive Announced

A new chapter in the development of Connacht Rugby begins today with the announcement that the IRFU and Connacht Rugby have appointed Tom Sears as the next Chief Executive of the western province.

Tom Sears, 43, steps into the role from his current position as CEO of Cricket Kenya and replaces the highly respected Gerry Kelly, who is retiring having served as the Chief Executive of Connacht Rugby since 1999.

Tom Sears

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Sears has impressive experience across the professional sports environment, with rugby at the heart of his early career.

A former journalist during the 1990s, he previously held roles in the communications and commercial areas for both the RFU and Northampton Saints, before moving to the sport of cricket in 2000 where he was the commercial director for Worcestershire County Cricket Club.

During his time there he helped to significantly grow revenues and sponsorship across both the professional and community levels of the game in the county, before moving on to become the Chief Executive of Derbyshire County Cricket Club in 2005.

He oversaw radical restructuring of the organisation and its finances, redevelopment of its grounds and returning it to profitability.

Sears then moved further afield, but remained in the sport of cricket when he was appointed as the Head of Business Development for New Zealand Cricket in 2008, where he again proved his worth in terms of developing the commercial aspect of the governing body.

His final move in 2010 was to Cricket Kenya as Chief Executive, where he has developed and began the implementation of a new comprehensive strategic plan for the sport to deliver core objectives, results at elite levels and the overall growth of the sport.

Commenting on the appointment, IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne said: “I would firstly like to thank Gerry Kelly for his hard work and leadership of Connacht Rugby during his tenure.

“Through turbulent times he has done a magnificent job and the course that Connacht Rugby is currently on is a credit to his abilities.

“The man replacing him comes from a rugby background, but his career has certainly taken a different route. Throughout his career, Tom (Sears) has, time and again, shown his ability to develop and grow each professional sports organisation with whom he has worked.

“This was certainly something that appealed to the panel conducting the interview process. The position attracted an exceptionally high level of interest, proving yet again how far Connacht has progressed.

“While there are still challenging times ahead for rugby in Connacht and Ireland, we feel that Tom has shown all the right qualities to be able to meet these challenges and bring Connacht even further in its development.”

Next season Connacht will enter into the second year of a three-year development programme that has already seen significant progress in terms of facilities and performances on the playing field.

Under the guidance of the new Professional Game Board, Connacht Rugby has also seen its revenues and Season Ticket holder numbers grow for the season.

Maintaining this upward curve is something that was a key consideration during the appointment process and something that both Sears and the Connacht Rugby Professional Game Board see as the next step of the evolution of the province.

Connacht Professional Game Board Chairman Jimmy Staunton said: “I look forward to working with Tom, he comes with a wealth of experience in the sports management Industry and he will be a great asset to Connacht Rugby.

“I would like to wish Gerry Kelly well in his retirement and to thank him for the great work he has done for Connacht Rugby over the years.”

Tom Sears commented: “I am delighted to be joining Connacht where there is such enormous potential to build on the tremendous work that has already been done.

“There is real scope to develop Connacht Rugby at all levels and ensure the province is at the forefront of Irish and European rugby in the coming years. There is no reason why Connacht can’t develop into one of Europe’s leading sides and that will be our collective goal.

“To do that we must ensure that we are the best we can possibly be from grassroots right through to our professional side and we will look at every area of the game to see how we can achieve this.”