World Rugby can confirm that Chief Executive Brett Gosper is to leave the international federation early in 2021 to become the head of NFL in Europe and the UK.

In almost nine years at the helm of World Rugby, Gosper has overseen transformational change of the international federation, strengthening the business and its financial outcomes and pivoting its focus from game regulator to game inspirer, overseeing record participation and audience growth, ensuring rugby sevens’ heralded return to the Olympic stage and delivering game-changing men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups that yielded record fan-engagement, broadcast, sponsorship and financial outcomes.

Gosper has also presided over the sport’s ongoing player welfare mission, championing evidence-based injury-prevention initiatives, particularly in the priority area of concussion, and strengthening relationships with the International Rugby Players body, who now have representation across the organisation’s decision-making bodies, along with coaches and match officials. 

With World Rugby set to launch a new strategic plan, delivering a roadmap for the sustainable globalisation of the sport, preparations on track for superb Rugby World Cups in 2021 and 2023, and an innovative future Rugby World Cup host selection process in place, Gosper feels that the time is right to seek a new challenge.

“It's been a fantastic nine years,” said Gosper. “It has been an absolute privilege to have worked with so many talented and dedicated rugby people around the world. I’ve been supported by two excellent chairmen in Sir Bill Beaumont and Bernard Lapasset along the way, excellent committees, and a brilliant team at World Rugby. 

“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. I am proud of what we have achieved together as a rugby family. While I will miss working in the sport, my passion and enthusiasm for what rugby and its values mean to so many will never diminish. 

“I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to rugby's growth and success during my time at World Rugby and in particular Bill Beaumont for his support, vision and leadership over the last four years.”

Sir Bill Beaumont added: “Brett leaves World Rugby with the organisation in a much stronger position then when he joined, and he should be very proud of what he has achieved working in partnership with our unions and regions, creating a more dynamic and efficient environment for the organisation to drive positive, impactful change in the sport.

“Brett will be a very hard act to follow. But with a new strategic plan set to launch, strong staff and stakeholder relationships, transformed interim committees and a dynamic Executive Committee, Rugby World Cup Board and Council, we are perfectly positioned to continue to drive the sport forward on and off the field and ensure it is as attractive and engaging to players and audiences.” 

Chief Operating Officer Alan Gilpin will perform the role of World Rugby interim Chief Executive, ensuring business continuity between Gosper’s departure in January and the appointment of a new Chief Executive.