A year of turmoil for Langford-based Rugby Canada has concluded with CEO Alan Vansen announcing Tuesday that he is stepping down.
It follows Canada failing to qualify for the 2023 men’s World Cup after appearing in all nine previous editions of the global showcase. That was after a women’s sevens national team player revolt that led to head coach John Tait of Mill Bay stepping down before the Tokyo Olympics. The 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medallists then called a controversial non-rugby news conference in Tokyo to address social issues before a stunning plummet to ninth place at the Olympics.
“After much consideration and consultation about what’s needed for the organization in the long-term and with my own professional and personal objectives, I have made the decision to step down in January 2022,” Vansen said in a statement.
He has been CEO of the organization since 2016.
“Both the board and I recognize change is an important catalyst at this juncture of Canadian rugby history,” said Vansen.
“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to lead such a remarkable organization.”
A review of the high-performance program in Langford is currently underway.
The recent bright spots have been Canada qualifying for the Olympics for the first time in men’s sevens and making the quarter-finals in Tokyo, and also Canada’s No. 3 world ranking in women’s XVs ahead of the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand.
The establishment of the Pacific Pride national U-23 development program in Langford is also seen as a major accomplishment and big step toward the future.
“Allen has steered Rugby Canada through significant organizational, governance and financial changes during his tenure and implemented numerous key initiatives, all of which have positioned us well for the future,” said Sally Dennis, chair of Rugby Canada.
“We have achieved many other milestones both on and off the field under his direction as our sport has evolved both nationally and internationally, despite not qualifying for World Cup 2023.”
But the latter stings deeply and the disappointment in the Canadian rugby community is sharp and palatable.
In an open letter, former Rugby Canada and World Rugby board member Chris Le Fevre said: “It is sadly the final nail in the coffin of Canada’s collapse in men’s international rugby.”
Le Fevre, a Victoria developer, doesn’t blame the players, but calls for an executive-level “rebuild from the ground up to start the long climb back” and to “learn from other sports such as tennis.”
He might have also added soccer.
“Outside help will be required,” added Le Fevre.