Brittle first played rugby as a student while at Longton High School, and as a senior played for Old Longtonians, Stoke-on-Trent and most notably for Sale. He also played county rugby for Staffordshire.In 1996 he took the post of Chairman of the Rugby Football Union, the year after the game of rugby union adopted professionalism. In his role of Chairman, Brittle appointed Fran Cotton as vice-chairman who in turn recommended Clive Woodward as England head coach. Brittle's time in office was turbulent; he resisted attempts by club owners and the media to overpay players in a rushed attempt to cash in on the professional era. This caused Brittle to be vilified by sections of the media, and in 1998 Cotton resigned when Brittle was excluded from talks between the English clubs and the RFU.
- Reason, Mark (18 September 2011). "The game of Rugby has lost a great visionary with the death of former RFU chairman Cliff Brittle". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
- "'Visionary' RFU boss dies". Sky Sports. 14 September 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2011.
- "Cotton quits RFU". BBC Sport. 4 April 1998. Retrieved 18 September 2011.