KEN Nottage, managing director of Gloucester, and the longest serving managing director in English professional rugby union, announced today that he will leave the club before the start of next season.

Nottage will leave Kingsholm to take up the position of chief executive of the Three Counties Agricultural Society in Malvern following the retirement of the current CEO.

Ken has worked for Gloucester ugby for 13 seasons. He was recruited by the late chairman Tom Walkinshaw in June 1999 from Newcastle United’s Sporting Club where he was chief executive holding responsibility for their football, rugby, ice hockey and basketball clubs.

Working closely with Tom Walkinshaw throughout his time at Gloucester, the club has enjoyed considerable success: Zurich National (play-off) Champions 2001-2, League Winners 2002-3, 2006-7, 2007-8, Powergen Cup Champions 2002-3, LV= Cup Winners 2010-11 and European Challenge Cup Champions 2005-6.

Off the field the club has seen many developments during his stewardship, including the re-modelling of Kingsholm and the development of an effective commercial structure.

Ken leaves the club in a position where it is financially self sufficient, declaring regular operating profits and with a squad ready to compete for honours next season.

He commented today: "I never thought I would work at the club for such a long time, I guess it just got hold of me in a way that no other job has. I consider myself very fortunate and I would like to thank everyone who I have worked with and all who have supported the Club during my time.

"I’m now looking forward to doing something different and to have the opportunity to work for another great organisation, the Three Counties Agricultural Society, which has a huge regional and national profile and a history going back over 200 years." Ken has been asked to stay on as a non executive director of Gloucester Rugby to ensure a smooth handover with the incoming managing director.

Ryan Walkinshaw, Gloucester’s majority shareholder and son of the late Tom Walkinshaw commented: "Ken was recruited by my dad shortly after rugby union turned professional. They worked closely together and became good friends. "His objective was to develop a club capable of winning trophies and standing on its own feet financially. And he has done just that. The Walkinshaw family and Board are extremely grateful to him for his 13 years of hard work.

"We wish Ken all the very best in his new venture and look forward to seeing him back at Kingsholm where he can enjoy rugby as a fan."