JONNY PETRIE is leaving his role as Managing Director of Edinburgh Rugby to become Chief Executive of Ulster. His date of departure is still to be confirmed according to a spokesman for the Scottish club; while his new employers have stated that they expect him to be in position “by the beginning of 2019”.
“I am enormously privileged to have been offered this role with Ulster Rugby and am looking forward to joining the club at such an interesting and exciting time for rugby at all levels across the Province,” said Petrie.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Edinburgh and am grateful for the opportunities and challenges it has presented me with. My thanks to all the senior executives at Scottish Rugby who I have worked closely with to support our wider ambitions for the club in recent years.
“I’d like to wish Richard Cockerill, the players and coaches the best of luck for the future and I’d also like to recognise the huge amount of work that goes in behind the scenes to help move Edinburgh forward as a club, and to realise its potential within a great rugby city.”
Petrie joined Edinburgh in July 2015, and after a tough couple of seasons in which the team struggled to find form under head coach Alan Solomons, there has been a real sense of forward momentum since the arrival of Richard Cockerill as head coach at the start of last season.
One of the big challenges Petrie has faced during his time at Edinburgh was in finding an appropriate venue for the club to play home games at. There was an ill-fated move to Myreside in January 2017, which was aborted in March 2018. Then, at the end of May of this year, Petrie – flanked by SRU Chief Operating Officer Dominic Mackay – unveiled plans for a 7,800-seater, custom-built, semi-permanent stadium on the back pitches at Murrayfield. Planning permission for this development was approved by Edinburgh City Council earlier this month.
Petrie also oversaw the rebranding of the club ahead of the start of this season, but there is doubt as to the level of autonomy he was being afforded on a day-to-day basis by the SRU, who ultimately own the pro teams.
Ulster had been seeking a new chief executive since Shane Logan’s announcement in June that he would be stepping down from the role after a turbulent last year for the province, with players Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding tried and acquitted for rape, and two head coaches in Les Kiss and Jono Gibbes leaving during the campaign as the team struggled on the field. There were also tensions between Ulster and the IRFU over player recruitment.
“We are delighted with the appointment of Jonny, who emerged as the top candidate in a thorough and competitive recruitment process. His experience and skill set will be a great asset to Ulster Rugby and we look forward to him taking the lead on our ambitious plans for the professional and domestic game,” said Paul Terrington, Chair of Ulster Rugby’s Management Committee.