Connacht chief executive Sears moving on after just 15 months

Tom Sears  is to leave his position as chief executive of the Connacht Branch by mutual consent after a little over a year in the jobs. Photograph:  James Crombie/Inpho

Tom Sears is to leave his position as chief executive of the Connacht Branch by mutual consent after a little over a year in the jobs. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 01:00


Tom Sears is to leave his position as chief executive of the Connacht Branch by mutual consent after a little over a year in the job. Negotiations are in place between Sears and the IRFU with a statement scheduled for later this week or early next week.

The development is decidedly unhelpful for Connacht, on foot of Pat Lam’s appointment to succeed Eric Elwood as head coach at the end of last season.

Amid expansion off the pitch, there have also been other comings and goings inside the organisation in the last year or two, along with the establishment of a Professional Games Board, for whom this development is also a setback.

Timing could be worse
Against that, the timing could be worse in that at least the season is up and running, and all playing and coaching contracts are in place.

It is anticipated the IRFU and Connacht will appoint an interim CEO from either the Union or the Branch, or the PGB, while beginning the search for a full-time successor to Sears.

The 44-year-old Sears was appointed on May 1st last year in succession to Gerry Kelly after the latter’s retirement. A journalist in the 1990s, he previously held roles in the communications and commercial areas for both the RFU and Northampton Saints, before moving to cricket in 2000, as the commercial director for Worcestershire County Cricket Club and then as chief executive of Derbyshire County Cricket Club in 2005.

Appointed as the head of business development for New Zealand Cricket in 2008, Sears moved on to become the Cricket Kenya CEO in 2010, stepping down from that position to take up his appointment with Connacht.

Sears’ most notable contribution was leading the process which culminated in the choice of Lam as successor to Elwood, and he was certainly a more vocal Connacht chief executive, incurring the wrath of Leinster and especially Joe Schmidt for his critique of their signing of Mike McCarthy, and wasn’t shy about stating the province’s ambitions.

This latest development comes in the week IRFU chief executive Philip Browne responded to a reported budget over-run in Connacht of reputedly €450,000-plus.

There is no suggestion Sears’ departure is in any way connected with the budget over-run.

Meanwhile, Nick Williams and Iain Henderson have been included in an expanded 25-man Ulster squad for their first competitive home game of the season, against Glasgow Warriors at the new-look Ravenhill on Friday.

Williams missed last Friday’s opening defeat away to the Dragons because he was in New Zealand for family reasons, as did Henderson.

Given Mark Anscombe has not named Robbie Diack, the likelihood is both will start, with Tom Court, Declan Fitzpatrick and Darren Cave also in line for promotion, and scrumhalf Ian Porter.

The new stands behind each goal, the Memorial and Family stands, will be open, as will the terracing at the front of the demolished old stand.
ULSTER Squad (v Glasgow): Forwards: N Annett, T Court, CBlack, R Lutton, N Williams, D Fitzpatrick, J Muller, D Tuohy, C Henry, R Wilson, I Henderson, S Doyle, R Herring. Backs: J Payne, L Marshall, P Jackson, D McIlwaine, J McKinney, P Marshall, D Cave, C Farrell, Arimble, I Porter, M Allen, R Andrew.
MUNSTER Squad (v Zebre): Forwards: D Varley, M Sherry, J Ryan, D Kilcoyne, J Cronin, S Archer, B Holland, D Ryan, Donncha O’Callaghan, D Foley, I Nagle, CJ Stander, P Butler, N Ronan, P O’Mahony, J Coughlan, S Dougall, T O’Donnell, Dave O’Callaghan. Backs: D Williams, C Sheridan, I Keatley, JJ Hanrahan, J Downey, I Dineen, C Laulala, D Hurley, C Bohane, K Earls, A Conway, R O’Mahony, J Murphy, S Zebo.