Rugby Canada makes a big splash with new CEO Nathan Bombrys

Glasgow Warriors Managing Director Nathan Bombrys at Scotstoun Stadium
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ANALYSIS – Nathan Bombrys is the new Rugby Canada CEO. Bombrys is an American who made his name in Europe, particularly, in Glasgow, Scotland.

Rugby Canada hires Nathan Bombrys as new CEO

Nathan Bombrys’ Bio

Nathan Bombrys was brought up in the state of Michigan in the U.S. He began playing rugby union for Syracuse University. Bombrys first worked for the London Towers, which was a professional men’s basketball team in the United Kingdom. He then spent seven years overseeing commercial operations in the English Premiership with the Sale Sharks. He then worked as head of the commercial department at the Scottish Rugby Union’s headquarters according to Kevin Ferrie of The Herald.

After that, Nathan Bombrys then worked for the Glasgow Warriors for 10 years. That experience meant a lot to Nathan Bombrys. This is what he said of the experience in Scotland with the Warriors according to Scottish Rugby:

“Glasgow Warriors is such a special club. I’ve been privileged to play my part over the past 10 years, working with so many talented staff, coaches and players to see the club grow into one of the top clubs in Europe.”

Nathan Bombrys: Why he is a good hire?

Bombrys has in-depth experience with rugby union. He has worked for two decades in England and Scotland and will provide Rugby Canada with a lot of valuable experience. This is what Sally Dennis, chair of Rugby Canada’s board of directors, said about Nathan Bombrys according to Neil Davidson of The Canadian Press:

“Nathan has a vision and a plan for restoring pride in Canadian rugby and leading us into a new era of growth, community engagement, financial stability and increased international performance success,” Dennis said in a statement. “We are excited and keen for him to get started.”

Rugby union has a long and deep history in this country. However, in recent times, the men’s 15 program has been struggling. Failing to make the Rugby World Cup for the first time in its national team’s history is something they will avoid repeating. They are now ranked 22nd in the world. In addition, there are now several countries that have caught up and/or surpassed Rugby Canada within the last 12 years.

Bombrys has also signed a lot of Rugby Canada players in the past. Nathan Bombrys joked about this according to Neil Davidson of the Toronto Star:

“Before the (Toronto) Arrows, I probably signed more Canadian players to professional contracts than anyone in the world,” he said with a chuckle.

What can Rugby Canada do?

There is a good example, though, that can be followed within Canada. Victor Montagliani became the president of the Canada Soccer Association (CSA) in 2012. He changed the culture of soccer in Canada, which started off the field. This is according to Montagliani in Daniel Squizzato’s interview for MLS Soccer back in 2016:

“Overall, I’m not disappointed in terms of the cultural change that happened in the men’s program, which was in dire need of a cultural change after decades of a country-club atmosphere. That doesn’t exist anymore.”

A national team that went from 122nd in 2014 to 38th in the world right now is a remarkable achievement (Montagliani is now the Concacaf president). Also, the CSA, during Montagliani’s time as president, unveiled the Canada Soccer Pathway, which looked at players of all ages and abilities in recreational, competitive, and EXCEL. They also “place their needs front and centre at each and every stage,” according to Sylvie Béliveau, Canada Soccer Long-term Player Development Manager at the time.

It is also something Rugby Canada should look at. The culture of Rugby Canada needs to change, especially true when it involves putting the players first.

Rugby Canada’s scathing report on its leadership

This year, Rugby Canada has started to do the right thing. There was an independent review of Rugby Canada’s leadership earlier this year. It was also a pretty frank assessment of the dysfunction according to Patrick Johnston of The Province.

“The high-performance program is described as unhealthy or unsafe by many,” the report said.

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Also, there have been player revolts and coaches resigning because of internal politics. In addition, players were treated quite poorly and not valued. What is clear from this report is that a long-term view of the game of rugby union in Canada must be taken into account. This is what former Rugby Canada player, Nathan Hirayama, said about Rugby Canada and the changes that needed to be made according to Mr. Johnston’s article:

“It’s not going to be an overnight fix. I think if we’re expecting results tomorrow, I don’t think that’s the kind of the mindset we need to be under because I think we all kind of have been guilty of that over time, expecting a quick change,” Hirayama said. “I think that kind of mindset may have led to where we’re at now.”

Last Word on Rugby Canada’s new CEO, Nathan Bombrys

This is a good hire for Rugby Canada. He is not Canadian, but he is aware of the fight rugby union has to get noticed on mainstream media in Canada and the U.S. He also has a history of working in Europe, which will help him with Rugby Canada. His relationship with the Toronto Arrows and potentially other Canadian MLR teams is crucial to the success of the men’s program. Also, for both the men’s and women’s programs, improving their living conditions and spreading the game to other parts of the country should be a priority for Nathan Bombrys.

Lastly, Rugby Canada may be part of the hosting rights in the future. The 2031 Rugby World Cup and the 2033 Rugby Women’s World Cup could be given to a USA-led bid. This bid includes Vancouver, British Columbia, which has gotten the blessing of current USA president, Joe Biden (according to Martin Pengally of The Guardian). It is also as of right now the priority for the World Rugby Chief in Pengally’s The Guardian article:

“We’re not talking to anybody else about Rugby World Cup hosting in 2031 and 2033,” Gilpin said. “It doesn’t mean it’s a done deal … but it means that we strategically believe we can deliver the right outcomes with this hosting plan.”

The news is expected to come on May 12, which could be a monumental day for Rugby Canada. A men’s program desperate for good news after missing the Rugby World Cup for the first time.


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