Simon Johnson ‘absolutely thrilled’ to be chairman of Rugby Football League
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Simon Johnson ‘absolutely thrilled’ to be chairman of Rugby Football League

'It's about making sure the rugby league is perceived in the way it should be,' Simon Johnson told Jewish News

JLC chair Simon Johnson chats with Prince Harry before the Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium which saw Warrington beat St Helens
JLC chair Simon Johnson chats with Prince Harry before the Challenge Cup final at Wembley Stadium which saw Warrington beat St Helens

Simon Johnson said it “was almost the greatest honour of my life” to have been appointed chairman of the Rugby Football League (RFL).

The Jewish Leadership Council (JLC)’s chief executive has been serving as interim chair of the RFL since Brian Barwick stepped down in July.

Johnson, who was formerly a senior lawyer with the Premier League and director of corporate affairs at the FA, has over 20 years’ experience in the industry.

He told JN: “I was absolutely thrilled [when I found out]. I considered it almost to be the greatest honour of my life to have been appointed to do this.

“When I got it, I considered such a thrill, such an honour. I was quite emotional about it because I’d grown to love the sport and to be asked to lead it and take the position of chair really is something that I couldn’t have believed would have happened to me.”

Johnson, who will be joined by non-executive directors Dr Rimla Akhtar and Sandy Lindsay, hopes to “create a compelling narrative for rugby league” that is forward-thinking and positive. 

“We’re in the shop window right now. Over the next two years, we have the 125th anniversary of the sport in 2020 and in 2021, we’re hosting the rugby league world cup in England,” he said.

“It’s about making sure the rugby league is perceived in the way it should be, that it’s respected throughout the sports industry and the government,” he added.

On juggling both roles at the JLC and the RFL, Johnson said: “I want to thank the trustees at the JLC for giving me the confidence to be able to do all this.

“They’ve allowed me to be on the board all this time and to assume this role. It is four days a month so I can do it with careful management of my diary.

“I have a very strong team around me here and it enables us to do all the work even when I’m not around and I think careful of my time.”

Despite being a lifelong rugby fan, Johnson does not support a particular team. “No one could accuse me of bias in any direction,” he quipped.

“I grew up watching some great rugby in the 1970s and 1980s, and it’s a real privilege now in what is soon to be 2020 to be able to lead the sport to a bright future,” he added.

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