The Council represents the views of the members who elected them. They channel feedback and information between their clubs and the RFU. They also make some decisions on behalf of the RFU, putting in place regulations and policies relating to the playing of the sport. Importantly, they also provide monitoring and oversight of the Board on behalf of the game as a whole.
The Rugby Football Union Council of 62 members is drawn from many different backgrounds and walks of life. All have devoted years to the sport and most have been voted in by those who know the impact of their efforts on rugby and their communities.
Council members come from across the nation, mostly from geographic areas made up of a single county, or group of counties, depending on the number of local rugby clubs in the area.
These are geographic Constituent Bodies (CBs). Others include the likes of the Schools and Students Unions, the three Armed Services, Referee Societies and the Oxford and Cambridge Universities, who each have their own representative. There are also representatives from the professional game, including the Rugby Players’ Association, and Premiership and Championship clubs.
For the most part, however, Council members are voted for and appointed thanks to the skills and experience they bring to the game. They are elected for terms of three years, and are eligible for re-election. Each serves a maximum of nine years, with extensions for those elected to the Board, the Presidential team or to international representative roles.
CBs notify clubs, and individuals, in advance of forthcoming elections to allow a wide range of candidates to put themselves forward. Anyone can stand for election to the Council once proposed by one full voting member rugby club and seconded by another. Their CB can also propose or second a candidate. Larger CBs elect two Council members, depending on the number of clubs in their constituency.
The RFU is keen to have a diverse range of talent to represent the game and the wider rugby community and encourages applications from female candidates and members of under-represented groups.
Candidates stand, as in any election, on their background, experience and motivation. Election is either by post/email, at a hustings meeting, or a combination of both, Covid having made online meetings more commonplace. If there’s a tie, the CB’s committee decides who they think will be best able to debate complex issues and communicate issues to and from the game, although a passion for rugby is fundamental.
Once appointed, Council members have an induction and a mentor who is already serving on Council and they are expected to devote around 25 days or more a season to the role. This includes around five formal Council meetings and other meetings, attending international matches and time spent with their CB and clubs. It is time consuming but many Council members combine it with their full-time jobs.
On an international match day at Twickenham they are often on duty hosting hard working volunteers from the game in their locality, and helping them to network and discuss progress and challenges with volunteers from other areas.
They may be wearing blazers when on official duty but they epitomise the dedicated rugby volunteers who roll up their sleeves and keep the game running across the grassroots. Many also bring to the role considerable professional knowledge, as well as experience in running clubs, competitions and rugby programmes.