Cardiff Blues have today confirmed that former Cardiff and Wales Wing Nigel Walker OBE has joined the club as a new advisor to the board.
The former Cardiff RFC and Wales wing begins his role with immediate effect, having forged a hugely impressive career since retiring from competitive sport in 1998.
Walker, who famously switched to rugby from athletics, where he competed in Olympic, World and Commonwealth Games, is currently National Director of the English Institute of Sport (EIS) – a position he has held for a decade.
In his role at EIS, Walker is responsible for the the scientific, medical, technological and engineering support provided to English athletes. This accounted for 93 per cent of athletes, and 31 of the 34 sports, that won a medal for Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic & Paralympic Games.
Walker will have a particular focus on development pathways, elite performance, recruitment strategy and rugby innovation in his new advisory role and Cardiff Blues chairman Alun Jones is delighted to secure the 57-year-old’s expertise.
Jones said: “We are obviously thrilled to welcome someone of Nigel’s calibre to further strengthen our board with his vast experience and expertise.
“As a boyhood supporter and former player, he remains enormously passionate about Cardiff Blues and has established himself as one of the UK’s most prominent leaders in sport.
“His track record of success at the English Institute of Sport, which manages and supports the majority of Team GB athletes, speaks for itself and we are all really excited to welcome him to Cardiff Blues.
“I have no doubt he will be a major influence and driving force behind Cardiff Blues, particularly in terms of our elite performance pathways and development structures.”
Walker played rugby in Cardiff throughout his youth before focusing on athletics and the 110m hurdles. He competed in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and won bronze in the 60m hurdles in the World and European Indoor Championships three years later.
After missing out on the 1992 Olympic Games, Walker switched to rugby and joined Cardiff RFC. Under the tutelage of Alec Evans, he quickly established himself as one of the most exciting players in the game, making 121 appearances and scoring 78 tries for the Blue and Blacks.
During that time, he also won the Welsh league and two Welsh Cup titles, 17 Wales caps and the Five Nations.
After hanging up his boots due to injury in 1998, the former Rumney High School pupil, became Head of Sport at BBC Wales and then Head of Change and Internal Communications.
Walker moved to the EIS in 2010, but continues to live in Cardiff and was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours last summer.
He remains passionate about Cardiff Blues and hopes to contribute to a resurgence akin to that experienced by Team GB.
Walker said: “I’m delighted to be asked, even more pleased to accept and I’m looking forward to it.
“I am a Cardiff boy born and bred, I used to stand on those terraces when I was 11, 12, 13, 14 paying to watch players like Gareth Edwards, PL Jones, Gerald Davies and I obviously used to play for this club and only this club.
“The motivation is wanting to give something back. We had some good times when I was playing, plenty of good times before that and I’d just like to help the board, the executive and the players realise the ambition set out in the current strategy.
“I have been involved in senior posts for about 20 years across the media and now the English Institute of Sport. I have sat on a few boards, I’ve learnt a bit, played the game, have a passion for Cardiff and I believe in the strategy that has been written.
“I would like to see Cardiff Blues have the impact on the pitch that we have seen in the past and we know can return. Nobody should underestimate the ambition of the board and if the board were not ambitious I wouldn’t be coming back in this role.
“It is no good being also rans, I am not coming back to be part of a set-up, which encourages anything but the best. I have been involved in Olympic and Paralympic sport for 10 years, the greatest period in Olympic and Paralympic history, and I believe I can be involved in something similar here at Cardiff Blues.”