16 March 2022

Former Welsh rugby chief ‘thought MBE was a prank’

16 March 2022

Former Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips has said he thought he was being pranked by a mate when he heard he had got an MBE.

He said he was “surprised” by the “nice” award and added that one of his proudest times in the sport was helping with the two-week conversion of Cardiff’s Principality Stadium into a 2,000-person field hospital for Covid-19 patients during the pandemic.

After collecting his MBE for services to rugby in Wales from the Prince of Wales during a ceremony at Windsor Castle, he said: “I totally thought it was a spoof and was trying to work out which of my mates had done it. I thought somebody had thought he is right for a stitch up.”

During his time in charge, Wales won the Six Nations Grand Slam in 2019, went 14 matches unbeaten and briefly went to number one in the Test rankings.

Former Welsh Rugby Union chief executive Martyn Phillips saw Wales reach a World Cup semi-final (David Davies/PA) (PA Archive)

They also reached the 2019 World Cup semi-final.

He described the stadium conversion work done during lockdown as “huge,” not just because of the people who had to be mobilised but also because sports chiefs knew that if a fixture had been allowed there would have been nowhere to play.

Mr Phillips, 53, who was appointed as the chairman of Premiership Rugby in 2021, said: “You were making a quite big sacrifice for the greater good but they were easy conversations to have (at that time).

“People in rugby can be quite confrontational with the sport with each other but when it comes to when you have to get behind a cause, it is a very easy sport to mobilise.

“It was a pleasure to be part of that and to see everybody pulling in the same direction.”

He added: “There are only four professional teams in Wales and two of them converted their stadiums to field hospitals as well in a fortnight. We literally gave up the whole estate and said ‘there’s a pandemic here and we need to be at the forefront of doing the right thing’.

“It was an easy conversation.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox