Sears charged with leading Connacht Rugby to next level

From Kenya to Connacht, Tom Sears’ career move is as ambitious as the province he will serve from next season, charged with leading the westerners into the next stage of their impressive progression.

Cricket Kenya CEO Sears, 43, was yesterday unveiled as the IRFU’s choice to be the new chief executive of Connacht Rugby, replacing Gerry Kelly, who will retire at the end of the month after 13 years at the helm.

The Englishman began his career in rugby administration, in the communications departments of both the RFU and Northampton Saints but it has been his business acumen in professional cricket that has seen him win the Connacht position ahead of more than 70 other applicants.

Having served at Worcestershire County Cricket Club, Sears earned plaudits as chief executive of Derbyshire County Cricket Club, which he returned to profitability with a radical restructuring of the organisation and its finances and the redevelopment of its grounds.

Further roles as the Head of Business Development for New Zealand Cricket and, since 2010, as Cricket Kenya CEO, helped convince IRFU chief executive Philip Browne that Irish rugby’s governing body had found the right person to lead Connacht forward.

“I would firstly like to thank Gerry Kelly for his hard work and leadership of Connacht Rugby during his tenure,” Browne said. “Through turbulent times he has done a magnificent job and the course that Connacht Rugby is currently on is a credit to his abilities.

“The man replacing him comes from a rugby background, but his career has certainly taken a different route. Throughout his career, Tom has, time and again, shown his ability to develop and grow each professional sports organisation with whom he has worked.”

Connacht Rugby are certainly on an upward path on and off the pitch with qualification for a second season of Heineken Cup rugby confirmed at the weekend.

With a new Professional Game Board to guide it, outgoing CEO Kelly implemented a three-year development programme at the start of last season that has seen improved facilities and better performances on the pitch under head coach Eric Elwood.

Buoyed by a famous home win over Harlequins in the final Heineken Cup pool game in January, this weekend will be the first time in Connacht’s history as a professional team that they will attempt to win four league games in a row. Having beaten the Dragons, Ulster and Aironi in successive weeks, Elwood’s will finish their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign against Glasgow Warriors in Firhill.

“I am delighted to be joining Connacht where there is such enormous potential to build on the tremendous work that has already been done,” Sears said.

“There is real scope to develop Connacht Rugby at all levels and ensure the province is at the forefront of Irish and European Rugby in the coming years.”

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