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Tragic loss of rugby pioneer
Mr. Tom Walkinshaw dies, aged 64
Posted Dec 16, 2010 by Jeff Dawson
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Both Rugby Union and Formula One have been mourning the death of the influential Tom Walkinshaw who has sadly died, aged 64.
Mr. Walkinshaw was the owner and chairman of Gloucester Rugby Club and owned many F1 teams including Benetton, Ligier and Arrows. He has been battling cancer.
This sad news is a tragedy for both sports and, for rugby in particular, his efforts, drive and determination have made the game what his it today.
He took over at Kingsholm as Gloucester owner in April 1997 after buying a majority shareholding and a short time later he took on the responsibilities of chairman of Premier Rugby, the top-flights clubs’ umbrella body, holding this position from 1998 to 2002 and he was key in helping to establish stability after a chaotic period for the newly-professionalised sport.
Premier Rugby, which now is known as Premiership Rugby, owes much to Mr. Walkinshaw’s vision and the current chairman, Quentin Smith, has paid his tributes this week, saying: “In so many respects, the success of professional club rugby is testament to the vision, leadership and drive of Tom Walkinshaw. His determination and energy helped create the Premiership Rugby and European competitions we know and love today. He will be sadly missed.”
Mr. Walkinshaw will be remembered by those involved in rugby as a dynamic chairman of the governing body, a gracious man and host and a central figure in the development of the professional game. He was a positive influence as the chairman of his club and Premiership Rugby.
Testament to his success at the top of the sport, average attendances were increased by 33% whilst the salary cap was also introduced during his time with Premiership Rugby. He then led the clubs team negotiating with the Rugby Football Union over the release of England Players, the details of which are now enshrined in an eight year agreement.
He was always forthright and passionate, and it was these qualities that saw him earn huge respect because there was no doubting his commitment to the sport. When the history of Rugby Union in England is written, Mr. Tom Walkinshaw’s name will be at the fore.