International Rugby League chair Grame Thompson has announced that the organisation will appoint an independent chair and two new independent directors in early 2020.

Thompson confirmed the news in his address to member nations marking the end of a calendar year that saw no shortage of international action, alongside turmoil in Tonga and the continued build-up to Rugby League World Cup 2021.

He said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank the members of International Rugby League for their supportive approach to the proposed changes to the governance structure of the federation.

“It was the appropriate time to do so and particularly the introduction of independent persons onto the Board is a progressive move.

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“Those changes will be embodied in early 2020 when we announce the two new independent directors and the sport’s first ever independent chair.”

Thompson highlighted some of the significant changes agreed by IRL members during the last 12 months, which he hopes will “continue to develop the platform of governance required to support the burgeoning growth of the sport on an international level”.

He added: “We had many firsts in 2019. The World Cup Nines for men and women, very well hosted by Australia, the men’s Oceania Cup, which demonstrated in particular the continued development on the field of the Pacific Island nations, and an England women’s tour to Papua New Guinea, which provided two great test matches.

“Women’s Rugby League is growing well and no doubt we will see more tours and new nations in 2020.

“The England wheelchair tour of England for an Ashes series was another opportunity to showcase this dynamic form of our sport.

“The Middle East and Africa men’s championship was a great event to witness first-hand and to also see there the RLWC2021 team’s activity showed the true value of our sport, as developments occurred on and off the field, many of which were unique for those participating in them.

“Finally, we had a number of new nations make the 2021 World Cup Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair tournaments.

“It is vital that these ‘firsts’ are built upon and become regular activities across our sport’s international landscape.

“We still have a lot of work to do, to be recognised more globally and to increase our number of participants and spectators.

“At the heart of this are our member nations, who daily carry our sport forward in their respective nations.

“On behalf of the Board, I would like to say thank you to them, along with our own staff and those in the Confederations and offer our very best wishes for everyone in 2020.”