Dame Patsy Reddy becomes first female chair of New Zealand Rugby

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Former Governor General Dame Patsy Reddy. Photo / Stephen Parker.

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Dame Patsy Reddy has become the first female chair of New Zealand Rugby (NZR).

She was elected chair at NZR’s final board meeting of the year in Auckland today and will replace outgoing chair Stewart Mitchell who said the timing was right to step down in the new year after nine years on the board.

Current NZR directors, Professor Farah Palmer and Bailey Mackey, have been elected as Reddy’s joint deputy chairs.

“It is an absolute honour to be elected to the position of chair at such a pivotal and exciting moment for rugby in Aotearoa,” Reddy said. “I would like to thank Stewart for his long service to the board and his leadership over the past two years as chair. He has left rugby in a strong position to grasp the opportunities in front of us and with a diverse and skilled board. I could not be more excited about the challenges ahead.”

Reddy was appointed to the NZR board in April this year and brings extensive skills to the table following a career as a lawyer, director, and crown negotiator before serving as New Zealand’s Governor General from 2016 to 2021.

She was made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM) for services to the arts and business and a Grand Companion of the Order (GNZM) in 2016 for services to the nation. In the past month she was invested with a Commander of the Victorian Order (CV) — the King’s first investiture since assuming the throne.

NZR president Max Spence acknowledged Mitchell for his service and contribution to the board.

“On behalf of NZR, I would like to say thank you to Stewart. He has guided the board through some extraordinary times and always done so with passion and dedication. He has been a champion for diversity and a driving force behind many of our major milestones as an organisation in recent years.”

Stewart Mitchell will step down as chair at the end of January next year. Photo / Photosport
Stewart Mitchell will step down as chair at the end of January next year. Photo / Photosport

Mitchell’s term as chair included navigating Covid difficulties to achieve a break-even financial result in 2021, managing complex negotiations with the New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) which enabled the signing of the Silver Lake transaction this year, and the establishment of New Zealand Rugby Commercial (NZRC) to drive all future revenues.

Mitchell, who will step down as chair on 31 January 2023, said he was particularly proud of the growth of rugby for women and girls during his tenure, and subsequent success of the Black Ferns in winning the Rugby World Cup, as well as the recent extension of Super Rugby Pacific through to 2030.

“It has been a challenging and tumultuous, but hugely rewarding time in the role over the past couple of years, but the timing is right to move on with a firm foundation set for the future. It is satisfying to see the board’s priority focus on succession planning come to fruition with the unanimous endorsement of Dame Patsy, and I wish her all the best as she guides rugby into an exciting period.”

Mitchell said he was looking forward to some downtime and investing more time in his other business interests.

Elected chair in May 2021, Mitchell joined the NZR board in 2014 after sitting on the Crusaders Super Rugby club board since 2008 and serving as chair of the Canterbury Rugby Football Union.

During his tenure on the NZR board, the Black Ferns won two Rugby World Cups in 2016 and 2022, the All Blacks won the Webb Ellis Cup in 2015, while there were also World Cup wins for the All Blacks Sevens and Black Ferns Sevens.

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