Tackle Height Debate : Update 16/02/2023


Feb 2023

At the Leicestershire Clubs’ Zoom meeting on Tuesday 31 January 2023, with the attendance of Paul Walsh, you will recall that I was mandated by the majority vote of those clubs represented, as follows:

  1. To back Staffordshire RU in their motion for the RFU to rescind the alterations to the tackle law to allow for consultation with clubs and members
  2. To support the Community Clubs Union (CCU) in their proposed motion for the RFU to revise procedures to ensure that CBs and Clubs are consulted before any future major changes to the game are made.

I contacted Staffordshire’s Honorary Secretary that same evening to convey Leicestershire’s support. Unfortunately, as we now know, there were only five Council Members of the twenty required who had notified their support by the deadline of 3 February 2023; and so the proposed motion could not be put to Council at its meeting last Monday.

At the time of writing, I understand that the CCU have sent out draft template letters for their supporting clubs to use when writing to the RFU seeking a Special General Meeting. There has been no announcement yet of any such request having met the required threshold of 100 clubs.

Since the Staffordshire proposal fell I have been talking with a group of like-minded Council Members about how we might best further the legitimate interests and concerns of our Clubs, given that the introduction of a lowered tackle height remains on the calendar to be introduced from 1 July 2023, just 4 ½ months away.

Council was promised a debate on the events and decisions that brought us to the current position, at Monday’s Council Meeting. In the event, we were allotted just five minutes. In an attempt to extend the time for the debate, we made approaches to the President and submitted a series of detailed questions that we felt needed answering. We received no direct response to those questions but did learn that it was the President’s intention to set up a ‘Task & Finish Group’ (Chaired by the Senior VP) to look at this whole subject.

The President introduced the subject in this way and I took the opportunity to state how disappointed I was personally, that we had not been given what we were promised and that the whole subject appeared to be being kicked into the long grass. The President assured me this wasn’t the case. The SVP said this wasn’t to be an exercise in the attribution of blame but rather a look forward at what we might do differently in the future. I said we could not learn any lessons without first understanding exactly what had happened in the past.

I have applied for a place on this T&FG and hope to have the opportunity to ‘keep it honest’ and transparent. I have yet to see any Terms of Reference.

So, we move on, in the meantime, to the Consultation phase. This is what we know so far:

Over the course of the next few weeks, the RFU will be launching a series of initiatives to listen to and learn from people across the game.
• Central to these will be a series of 24 consultation forums, 12 face to face and 12 virtual.
• The LRU can nominate 40 people to represent across the senior men’s and women’s game and the age grade game, including players, coaches, match officials, parents, teachers, Club and County volunteers, Disciplinary officers, Safeguarding and Rugby Safe officers.
• This should mean direct consultation with around 1000 people across the country.
• We have to submit our list of nominees to the RFU by noon on Friday 24 February 2023; so, if you want to be involved, please complete the online form which will shortly be available on the LRU website, ASAP
• An open survey will also be launched by the RFU on Wednesday 1 March 2023
• There will also be a series of online focus groups – though no details of these are yet available
This consultation, in its various guises, is currently the most direct route for the whole Game to have a say and to try to effect change in the start date, the actual tackle height and the law changes that will be required.

I urge you, please, to seize the opportunity to be heard loud and clear.

Peter A Howard
RFU Council Member for Leicestershire & Rutland
07912 057919

More Tackle Height Information


Feb 2023

Please see further reading resources regarding tackle height.

• Please read all of the information contained within the Community Game Update issued 19 January 2023 here: https://rise.articulate.com/share/zxgc0AZr8XezmvQLSSJLWjSAd6pEvHXQ#/ and watch the video presentation from Dr Simon Kemp, RFU Medical Services Director which is linked from there.
• Rationale and Evidence Paper: 27.01.23 Waist height Rationale.pdf (englandrugby.com)
• Tackle Height Science Presentation: https://www.englandrugby.com/dxdam/90/9035104b-3124-434f-81e6-cb85eff14ee1/Tackle%20height%20science%20presentation%20Jan%202023.pdf
• RFU Tackle Height Communication to the Game: https://rfu.sharepoint.com/sites/CorporateGovernance/

Tackle Height – RFU Council FAQs (19.01.23) (1) Tackle height media summary 23-01-2023 Timeline of Head Impact Actions, Research and Interventions

Tackle height media summary 23-01-2023

Timeline of Head Impact Actions, Research and Interventions

The RFU – The state of the Union


Oct 2018

(Notes on the current financial situation at Twickenham)

It cannot have escaped the notice of even the casually interested observer that all has not been well at Twickenham of late. An anticipated, pressing, financial shortfall was unveiled to Council Members at the June Council meeting by the incoming Chief Finance Officer, Sue Day. Sue replaced Steve Brown after he was appointed to the role of Chief Executive in the wake of Ian Ritchie’s departure. For most Council Members it was the first they had seen of the new CFO and it seemed as though she had inherited the poison chalice, having to deliver a message of imminent shortfall, pressing need to restructure and an ensuing period of austerity.

What were the origins of this shortfall in income?

Let me dispel at the outset the red herring that it has been the overspend on the East stand redevelopment that caused this; it was not. The spending on the redevelopment is the product of capital spend, the shortage which has caused so many repercussions has been a shortfall in anticipated income. It will have a small impact in terms of increased depreciation write-off in future years.

The four main factors highlighted by the Board in their current financial planning are;

  1. The fact that the RFU’s is a four-year cyclical business and is facing the impact of a ‘normal’ Rugby World Cup Year loss in 2019/20 for the first time in 8 years (the 2015 home World Cup delivered c£30 million profit). Historically, RWC year is loss making as there are no Autumn Internationals at Twickenham. But we have known this for many years and should have seen it coming.
  2. The one-time major income boosts the RFU has benefited from in recent times, including RWC2015 and the significant TEL/Compass deals, are no longer on the horizon. (Twickenham Experience Limited (TEL) was set up in 2000 as a joint venture between the RFU and Compass Group, the FTSE 100 food services provider a £42m joint venture which netted the RFU £16.75m) We also knew this from the outset.
  3. The significant income (specifically in TV rights-most of which run out by 2020-and sponsorship deals) and corresponding Rugby investment growth enjoyed in the last 7 years is now highly unlikely to continue and assumptions about future revenue are having to be re-set in light of the growing uncertainty in both the UK sports market and the wider economic environment; which predict a downturn in rights income.
  4. The RFU’s contracted investment in the Professional Game has increased because of the PRL agreement struck in 2016, for eight years. Success at the elite end of the game drives our business model and provides the funding for community rugby so national success is essential, as is keeping Twickenham Stadium in good repair. This translates into significant committed investment which reduces the amount of discretionary spend at our disposal. We knew what the terms of the PRL agreement were and should have been able to determine in advance what would be its effects on expenditure this season. 

What were the immediate consequences?

As a result of those forward predictions of our financial position, they decided to tighten belts now to ensure spending levels are both prudent and sensible in the new world we are facing as well as ensuring the ability to continue to deliver our Rugby priorities at a significant level for many years to come. Some might say though that this was not forward enough in predictive terms.

These were the consequences of the decisions reached by the Executive:

  • As the result of the Staff Consultation process, around 60 roles right across the RFU will have been made redundant. Around 35 of these are in the Community. Rugby Development is likely to continue to employ around 225 people and will remain the largest workforce in the Union. All RFU departments have made proportionately similar reductions and the most senior redundancies are at Twickenham HQ, including in Finance, Strategy and Corporate Affairs and Professional Rugby. (N.B. Leicestershire has emerged unscathed by the loss of community field workers that other CB’s have seen)
  • Budgets and spending have reduced for this year, though the RFU will still invest over £100 million in the game, including almost £48 million in the Community Game (£34.4m from the P&L, plus £13.4m of capital investment into Artificial Grass Pitches).
  • Although the reductions in the community game budget and people numbers are devastating for all concerned, they do follow recent years of record levels of investment. Ten years ago, the RFU spent just £20 million on the community game so even this year’s reduced budgets are still higher than they were 5 years ago. Clearly this doesn’t make the reductions and staff losses any easier for the game, but we should not forget what the achievements in recent times.
  • Future income is likely to be flatter than hoped for, so it is important that we do everything we can to protect revenue. The new East Stand, which will open this Autumn, is designed to bring more corporate hospitality in house in order to maximise the income to be spent on rugby. Although the budget for the East Stand has increased significantly (£16m more than the budget of £65m), largely as a result of significant and urgent changes made to fire safety regulations following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, and counter terrorism requirements, it will still have paid for itself fully within seven years.
  • We have net assets of over £200m, we own our key asset, Twickenham Stadium, and we have a £100m bank loan facility that will be fully repaid by the end of 23/24 and this is enabling the current capital investment into the East Stand and protecting our future revenue.

What has been the result of the restructure and austerity drive?

The Board decided to enter into a statutory staff consultation with a view to a restructure that would, inevitably, lead to staff redundancies; around 60 were anticipated. The re-structure and redundancy programme is nearly complete, though the Board were until recently still in formal consultation with a very small number of affected individuals and once that is complete we have been promised that a full organisational chart and details on who to contact for what issues will be released.

The Board wrote to all CBs earlier in the Summer to update on their strategy and plans going forward and to address some of the issues that were raised directly to them and via feedback from the Game. They said that they wanted ‘to provide some further facts and context to ensure a good understanding of the actual financial position, as there is some confusion and concern in the game at the moment’.  Along with other Midlands based Council Members, I met with Community Rugby Director, Steve Grainger, recently to take the opportunity to make a more in-depth examination of the situation than we had had the opportunity to do at Council.  Leicestershire Rugby Union’s Executive has been one of a very few CBs that have continued to express concern at what has happened and why we are where we are and we have taken up the offer of a visit from one of the Executive team to talk to us and answer questions. I have arranged for a Board member (either the Chair or Chief Executive) to visit us shortly and I will report on the outcome of that visit at a later stage.

Nonetheless, the Union’s financial position remains strong – the RFU is not in financial difficulty. The Union has net assets of over £200m according to the last annual report. We own our key asset, Twickenham Stadium, and our £100m bank loan facility is slated to be fully repaid by the end of 2023/24 and this is enabling the current capital investment into the East Stand to protect our future revenue.


The Executive say that, ‘to give us some assurance’, since 2011 they ‘have continuously improved financial governance in the organisation to ensure that it operates at a standard which is appropriate for an organisation the size of the RFU. This has included improved levels of financial controls and delegation, transparency around reporting, extensive internal and external audit activities and an Audit Committee chaired by an Independent Non-Executive Director’.  Personally, I am not reassured; the question for me is where was that Governance, those improved processes and what were the Auditors doing in the last few years? Why did this situation come as such a surprise when so many of the factors were already known or entirely predictable?

That having been said, nationally Leicestershire’s is a small voice. Clubs have shown distinct disinterest both nationally and locally. Only two or three have written to the RFU and not one club in Surrey, given the option of pushing the RFU for an SGM was remotely interested. The situation is the same in Gloucestershire. When I pressed them, the CBs whose Council Members and I met with Steve Grainger in the Summer (East Mids., Eastern Counties, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire) were distinctly uninterested as well. Nor do I know of any Leicestershire clubs showing interest either.

All of the foregoing comments in red type are my personal views only and will form the basis of the questions I hope to put to the Board member who meets with the CB Executive this Autumn.

What has become abundantly clear is that, in future, Council will have to be far more searching and interrogative (and prepared to flex its muscles more) of both the Board and the Executive in terms of future plans and, more especially, on all matters financial.

Peter A Howard

RFU Council Member for Leicestershire & Rutland

30 September 2018



RFU Business Plan 2018/19 – Frequently Asked Questions (and responses) produced by Twickenham

  1. Is the RFU in financial trouble?

The Union is not in financial trouble – we are on very sound financial footing. We have strong revenue streams – 2018/19 revenue was one of our highest ever years – net assets of over £200m, we own our key asset, Twickenham Stadium, and we have a £100m bank loan facility that will be fully repaid in five years that is enabling the current capital investment into the East Stand, to protect our future revenue. We also have a long waiting list for debentures.

  1. How much will the RFU invest in rugby this year?

We will invest over £100 million into rugby this year – in the professional game and the community game.

  1. How does this compare to recent years?

We have invested record amounts into rugby in the last few years. From 12/13 to 15/16 we invested over £300m into rugby, and we are on target to invest over £400m over the current 4-year cycle – another record amount. This compares to the £207m that was invested in the 4-year cycle to 11/12 and the £179m that was invested in the 4-year cycle to 07/08. We have transformed our rugby investment in recent times.

  1. How much are you investing in the Community Game, and how does this compare to recent years?

Ten years ago, the annual investment in community rugby was £20 million. This year it will be almost £48 million (£34.4m in cash from the P&L plus £13.4m of capital investment into Artificial Grass Pitches). In addition to these numbers, we make significant investments into the operation of the community game, including safeguarding, discipline, technology, marketing and PR.

  1. How many jobs will be lost in total?

We are coming to the end of the process, and at this point, we anticipate that around 62 roles will be made redundant. We are also recruiting some new roles across the organisation which will minimise the number of people who leave the organisation due to redundancy.

  1. How many jobs will be lost in the Community Game?

By the end of the process, we will employ around 225 people in Rugby Development to support the community game. We believe around 35 roles will have been made redundant, but the consultation process is not yet concluded for all our employees. This rightly remains the largest workforce in the Union. The adjustments we have made to staffing and budgets this year follow years of record levels of investment.

  1. Has the Community Game borne the brunt of the cuts and redundancies?

The recent adjustments have been made right across the RFU. The community game has not borne the brunt of it – similar proportionate cuts have been made to the Professional Rugby department, and to our back office and support functions at Twickenham.

  1. Are people being made redundant due to the East Stand going over budget?

No – these are not connected. The investment in the East Stand enables us to bring more corporate hospitality in house to maximise income which can be invested in rugby, rather than the previous model which meant that not all profits were returned to the game. The revenue raised from the new facility will be invested into the game.

  1. Why has the East Stand gone over budget?

The increased budget is largely due to matters outside our control, including more stringent fire safety and bomb regulations introduced post the Grenfell Tower fire and counter terrorism requirements. Health and Safety is obviously our number one priority. The stand will pay for itself within 7 years, which is a very good rate of return, and the ongoing profits generated from hospitality will be invested into rugby.

  1. How does the RFU budget and financial management work?

We have undergone an extensive financial governance overhaul since 2011 to ensure that we operate at a standard which is appropriate for an organisation the size of the RFU. This includes improved levels of financial controls and delegation, transparency around reporting, extensive internal and external audit activities and an Audit Committee chaired by an Independent Non-Executive Director. We report in detail to Council every quarter, and Council see and discuss our annual business plans. If any member of the rugby family has any questions about our finances, all they need to do is ask.

LRU Rep report March 2018


Apr 2018

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has been another busy half season and, as we begin the run in to the end of the season, I wish you a Happy New Year and success in all your endeavours, promotion if possible and otherwise the avoidance of relegation.

I have set out below my diary for the second half of the season as your RFU Council member, together with fixtures that I have attended and clubs that have visited so you can see what I have been doing in the role and what is coming down the line.

Thank you to all those clubs and committee members that extended hospitality to me and welcomed me at their clubs this season and to all those that, I hope, will continue to do so in what’s left of the season. I shall continue to do my utmost to support and assist all Leicestershire clubs and to support the interests of the County as a whole; going forward I would very much like to be invited to club committee meetings, as an observer (and in confidence), so that I can get more of a feel for the particular problems and concerns of your individual clubs.

Last season I was asked to join the RFU Corporate Governance Code Working Group that was formed to examine the Government’s new mandatory governance code for National Sport Governing Bodies (NGB’s) and determine the RFU’s response. Although we aren’t done yet and are due continue as a facilitation group, I am very pleased to say that Council accepted the Group’s recommendations, as did the RFU Board and the game as a whole; when our final recommendations were approved at the Special General Meeting in November. One of the ideas to come out of that group was the formation of a Diversity & Inclusion Working Group with membership drawn from right across the game and beyond. After a rigorous selection and interview process I was delighted to be one of the two Council members appointed to the group, together with Maggi Alphonsi.

I have continued to take every opportunity to support County sides and to visit local clubs at weekends to watch games and chat to committee members and club members alike. Please look out for me and make yourselves known and, if you’d like me to come to a match, a meeting or some other function or you require my assistance in any way, please feel free to contact me and do let me know as early as possible. Full details of my diary are in the attached LRU REP report March 2018

Going forward, you should all be starting to prepare for GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) that come into force in May this year. Guidance has recently been issued by the RFU and can be found here: http://www.englandrugby.com/governance/club-support/gdpr/

This season I started holding my ‘Bar in the Car’ sessions at the home six nations games, beginning with the Wales match. A small but dedicated group of drinkers largely from Melton Mowbray RFC and Quorn RFC (including our Rugby Development Officer (RDO) Jenna Bonser) stopped by for the free bar in wet and windy conditions. For the second event, at the Ireland match the weather was even worse, freezing temperatures and a snowstorm! I was delighted though that the attendance was up, with Shepshed, Sileby, Oadby Wyggs, Oakham, Stoneygate and York RFCs and LSRUR stopping by and making it such an enjoyable part of the day (despite the cold, wind and snow).It was great to see you all and I am looking forward to three more Bar in the Car events at next 6N in 2019 (and some better weather)!

Finally, for now, may I thank all Leicestershire clubs for allowing me an unopposed third term in this role. Your support means an awful lot and I hope that I continue to do the role, the county and all of you proud.


Peter A Howard

RFU Council Member for Leicestershire

07912 057919

Please feel free to contact me for any advice or assistance on 07912 057919 / 01858 555101 or by email at LRURep@outlook.com

You can also follow me on Twitter @LRURep



Feb 2018

In September 2017 Genevieve Glover was confirmed as Chair of the new Diversity & Inclusion Working Group. The group’s terms of reference provide for two members to come from Council, one from the National Youth Council, two from the game and two Independents.

I am delighted to confirm that, after an interview process late last year, together with Maggie Alphonsi, Cameron Taylor, Adam White, Sally Burns, Chris Ratcliffe and Anne Murphy, I have been confirmed as a member of the Diversity & Inclusion Working Group.

Peter Howard

RFU Council Member

9 February 2018