World Rugby has announced the appointment of City Football Group Finance Director Neil Hitchen to lead the finance function, replacing former Chief Financial Officer Robert Brophy who stepped down in June. Hitchen will join the business in September, an exciting time for the sport with Rugby World Cup 2023 getting underway in France.
The appointment reflects World Rugby’s ongoing business transformation, attracting key talent to support the central strategic mission of cementing rugby as a truly global, growing and thriving sport, capable of attracting new audiences in emerging markets.
Joining with a wealth of sport and entertainment experience, Hitchen cut his teeth at the iconic Factory Records, the independent music label that gave rise to some of the UK’s culture-defining acts in the 1990s.
Roles in broadcasting, film and TV production, and music with twofour54 Abu Dhabi, ITV and Virgin Media respectively followed, before moving into sport with City Football Group where he held the position of Finance Director for their international business, restructuring the finance team with responsibility for financial control, reporting and strategic financial management of the company’s international assets. During this time, Manchester City became one of the most successful businesses and sporting entities in the world.
Hitchen’s appointment follows that of Jasmin Allott as Group Technology Director as a key hire within World Rugby’s Corporate Services team responsible for finance, risk, business transformation, people and culture, legal, communications and technology under Chief Operating Officer Charlotte Samuelson. He will be responsible for the overall management of World Rugby’s EventsCo and International Federation financial structures.
Samuelson said: “With a wealth of sports, entertainment and business sectors experience, Neil joins at an exciting time and is a perfect fit for an evolving and transforming business and sport with an ambition to break new markets, attract new audiences and drive new revenue growth.
“I look forward to working with Neil as he heads-up a strong and dynamic finance team that underpins our business growth and the growth of the sport more broadly at an exciting and transformative time for the sport.”
World Rugby Chief Executive Officer Alan Gilpin added: “We look forward to welcoming Neil to the World Rugby family as we springboard into a new era of events hosting where World Rugby forms joint venture partnerships with hosts, driving new fan and revenue growth that will underpin our strategic mission to grow the sport globally.”
Hitchen said: “I'm excited about the opportunity to support the further development of World Rugby and growth of the game worldwide, drawing on my international experience in elite sport and media. It's an honour to be part of this organisation and I'm keen to get started.”