Passport Office boss set to become chief exec of Welsh Rugby Union

Abi Tierney will take on role following allegations of sexism and racism at WRU
Abi Tierney Photo: HMPO

By Jim Dunton

17 Aug 2023

HM Passport Office director general Abi Tierney is due to leave her role to become the first female chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, according to reports.

The sports body is today expected to announce Tierney as permanent successor to Steve Phillips, who resigned as WRU chief in January following allegations of sexism and racism in a BBC investigation.

Nigel Walker held the chief exec role on an interim basis but was subsequently appointed as the WRU’s first executive director of rugby.

Wales Online reported that contenders for the WRU chief exec job included Walker, former Wales centre Andy Marinos, ex-Football Association of Wales chair Steve Dalton, and former Future Generations Commissioner for Wales Sophie Howe.

Tierney joined HM Passport Office in March 2020 and is also director general at UK Visas and Immigration, registrar general for England and Wales, and – as of June this year – Home Office ethics adviser.

She is likely to be in line for a significant salary boost with her new role. According to the Cabinet Office’s latest Civil Service High Earners List, her salary as of September last year was bracketed at £160,000-£164,999. ITV News reported that former WRU chief exec Phillips’ salary last year was £359,000.

Before joining HMPO, Tierney was business-development director at Serco Health. Prior to that she was director of strategy and innovation at University Hospitals Leicester and before that she was director of strategic leadership at Aberdeen City Council. She has also been a marketing leader for IBM’s global services business.

Last year, Tierney came under media fire for working from home when the Passport Office was dealing with unprecedented levels of demand because pandemic-time travel restrictions prompted people to put off renewing their passports.

Home Office permanent secretary Sir Matthew Rycroft was quick to defend Tierney and later told CSW that her work location had “zero bearing” on delays with passport applications.

He said she “worked day-in, day-out with teams around the country delivering vital services for the British public”.

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