Ulster part company with Jonny Petrie

Former Scotland back-row has been at the helm at Ravenhill since January 2019

Ulster have parted company with Jonny Petrie. Image: © Craig Watson
Ulster have parted company with Jonny Petrie. Image: © Craig Watson

THE IRFU and Ulster Rugby have jointly announced that Jonny Petrie has left his role as CEO of Ulster Rugby by mutual agreement.

The former Scotland back-row took up the position with Northern Irish province in January 2019, having spent the previous three and a half years as Managing Director of Edinburgh Rugby.

News of the 47-year-old’s departure comes less than two months after head coach Dan McFarland’s exit following a run of three consecutive defeats and 16 losses from his last 31 games in charge to be replaced by Ireland Under-20s head coach Richie Murphy on an interim basis.

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While it has been a frustrating season for the province on the park, the off-field situation has also been a cause for deep concern.

Speaking at a meeting of season ticket holders earlier this month, Petrie addressed the financial challenges facing Ulster, and warned that things were likely to get tougher before they go better.

“Our revenues have grown year-on-year, but at the same time, we have been dealing with inflationary costs and a number of other factors largely outside of our control that have affected our expenditure,” he said. “In a model that relies heavily on gate revenues, we now have fewer home matches to be able to generate additional income, alongside those inflationary aspects and some adjustments to our various sources of external funding.

“It will take a period of readjustment this year, and into next year, and we are working with the IRFU to get to a sustainable solution.”

Ulster – who are in South Africa and due to play the Stormers this coming Saturday – currently sit seventh in the URC table, inside the play-off positions but with Lions, Connacht, Benetton and Ospreys breathing down their necks, and face Montpellier in the European Challenge Cup last 16 next month having failed to progress out of their pool in the flagship Champions Cup competition.

“The IRFU and Ulster Rugby thank Jonny for the five years spent with Ulster Rugby and wish him well, both personally and professionally, for the future,” said Kevin Potts, the CEO of the IRFU, adding that an interim CEO will be appointed in due course while a recruitment process is undertaken.

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About David Barnes 3891 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Would Al Kellock not be a good fit to replace Dodson ? Already part of SRU set up and a rugby man through and through.

    • In what way is he possibly qualified to be a CEO? The last thing we need as CEO is a rugby man, the SRU has plenty of those. We need someone who is capable of driving forward a strategic vision for the organisation and ensuring both its sporting and commercial future. None of that requires any experience in the rugby world tbh.

  2. People are raising the question of whether Petrie could replace Dodson. Without knowing what competencies & characteristics the SRU BoD are looking for in the next SRL CEO then we can only speculate to who would be suitable. As far as I’m aware there’s not been any job advert, with accompanying job specification, publically released, which begs the question “why not?”. This just reinforces people’s view of the SRU of being a secretive incestuous organisation.

    • To be fair a pot plant could replace Dodson. It wouldn’t do anywhere near the damage and would only cost a couple of quid.

    • As far as I’m aware, CEO roles for organisations don’t get advertised. They use specialist recruitment consultants.

      Sure there’s someone out there going to get a nice bonus.

      • Organisations, especially ones that represent national bodies, usually aim to be as transparent as possible (normally as part of their business integrity & compliance processes), with key positions publicly advertised to supplement any executive search company they may employ. This also reduces possible claims of cronyism. The SRU previously publicly advertised for their non-exec custodian positions so the CEO position shouldn’t be any different

        I believe the SRU use Carlyle Associates for their executive search, but what’s not clear is how this company was chosen, and how successful they are at finding the best candidates & assessing them (with the most suitable candidates, who are willing to be considered, presented to the SRU in a shortlist). But the executive search company will only search for what they’ve been tasked to source, so if the job specification (including personal traits) is similar to the historical one then we may get another Dodson clone.

        If people are willing to have blind faith in what’s happening within the SRU then they must wholeheartedly accept the resultant outcome. All I’m asking for is professionalism, transparency & accountability from the people who have been appointed to run our nation’s rugby union organisation.

  3. Scottish Rugby needs a CEO to get the finances back in order after the excesses of the Dodson/Spence era. Not sure that Petrie has that skill set as he appears to be seen by the IRFU as one of the persons responsible for Ulster Rugby’s financial problems.

  4. Just because he’s Scottish doesn’t automatically mean he should be involved or entitled to a role within the SRU. Even if he was a previous employee.

    We want people who are right for the role and have a demonstrable track record of achievement and success.

    Not the usual “jobs for the boys”, spoofer candidates who’ve primarily failed to change the dial on or off the field.

    Two questions at interview for me:

    1. What state did you leave in Edinburgh in?
    2. What state did you leave Ulster in?

    As far as I remember his contribution at Edinburgh was not significant. He brought in Cockerill when Solomon’s was sacked and they got planning permission for the mini stadium at Murrayfield after the Myreside debacle.

    Ulster are in poor shape at the moment and have not really recovered from the Paddy Jackson case and how it was handled. They’ve also not set the heather alight on the field either.

    So, you’d have to ask the question….what value would he bring? What’s he going to do that will change the fortunes of the SRU?

    He’s had two goes at it in two different unions. None of that came to any titles or significant club development.

      • Well Dom, he’s got CEO experience, he has a rugby background, he’s available and (hopefully) cheaper than Dodson.
        Will be ticking a lot of boxes for someone at SRU HQ

      • We’re going to have to pay big bucks to fill the CEO role at Murrayfield if we want the right person 😊🐻

      • Ed, he has been CEO at 2 teams (Ulster and Edinburgh), neither of whom exactly flourished under his watch. That’s not to say he does or doesnlt have or can acquire the skill set required but his current CV is I am afraid way off the necessary standard

    • Show me a single professional rugby club that has been flourishing on and off the pitch under anyone’s watch in the last 5 years septic.

      • Grant – now show me one that doesn’t have a millionaire/billionaire backer who is pumping huge amounts of their own money into the club.

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