By Linley MacKenzie
Just two weeks into the new rugby season, Connacht CEO Tom Sears has announced his resignation.
A bolt from the blue after just 15 months in the job, Sears’ resignation comes in the wake of a leak that Connacht has a €400,000 budget deficit. However it is understood Sear’s decision has nothing to do with the budget, but is for personal reasons.
Yesterday Sears’ only comment was that “after careful consideration, I have taken the decision to leave Connacht for my own reasons. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and hope the province continues to go from strength to strength."
It is understood the IRFU will be sending Kevin Potts, its director of corporate affairs, to help plug the hole until a new CEO can be appointed.
Sears’ arrival came following the retirement of the province’s first CEO Gerry Kelly after 13 years at the helm. On his appointment Sears said his move was “long term”, enabling him to move closer to his three children in Worcester and “an opportunity to build something really quite special” in Connacht Rugby.
The 45-years-old former English journalist turned sports administrator, who had a reputation for turning around the fortunes of sporting organisations, made an immediate impact in the branch - instigating personnel and role changes - some of which were unpopular. However, regarded as a person of integrity who spoke his mind, he scored brownie points from supporters for standing up for Connacht in the wake of Mike McCarthy’s defection to Leinster - despite being rapped over the knuckles by the IRFU - and he was influential in the decision to bring in Pat Lam - once again standing up for the “integrity” of the province when several candidates broke confidentiality.
However it is believed he never settled well into the west of Ireland. Initially he and his partner lived near Moate and he commuted daily to the Galway Sportsground, but more recently he had moved to Gort.
IRFU chief executive, Philip Browne said: "We fully understand Tom's decision to step down and both the IRFU and Connacht Rugby wish him every success in the future".