Promotion and relegation at Test level, a bigger role for the Lions and supporting the Pacific nations… SIR CLIVE WOODWARD’s 10-point plan to save rugby – and why Gus Pichot has the vision to implement it as he goes up against Bill Beaumont
- The election for a new chairman of World Rugby is due to take place on Sunday
- Incumbent Bill Beaumont is facing a challenge from Argentine Gus Pichot
- Sir Clive Woodward is backing Pichot and has a 10-point plan to save rugby
I wonder if all those voting for the chairmanship of World Rugby on Sunday realise the great gift and opportunity they have — or what a pivotal moment for the game this is.
Proceed with the international closed shop — which rugby has been for a century or more — and the game we love could be in very deep trouble.
But if we look to change and embrace a new mindset, there is the opportunity to grow and flourish.
Gus Pichot (R) is challenging Bill Beaumont (L) to become chairman of World Rugby
It’s going to be hugely challenging financially.
This is not the time to be voting for narrow self-interest, which is why it was so disappointing — shocking, actually — that only one of the Six Nations bothered to reply to Gus Pichot when he personally emailed all the CEOs with his manifesto for the future.
Surely every voting member should have found the opportunity for a Zoom call with both Bill Beaumont and Pichot.
Their attitude tells me some haven’t grasped the importance of this vote.
By the time delegates do vote, I would like to think they will all have spoken personally with both candidates. It’s their duty.
Before they vote I would ask them, for the good of the game, to consider all the main issues and vote for the candidate they believe can make a difference and bring about change.
Make a once-in-a-lifetime decision for the good of World Rugby.
1 – VOTE FOR PROMOTION AND RELEGATION AT TEST LEVEL
The absence of promotion and relegation will eventually kill the Test game. It has already killed continental European rugby because Georgia, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Romania and Germany have nowhere to go. They can be relegated but not promoted.
It’s the same in the Southern Hemisphere. Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Japan have nowhere to go. The absence of promotion and relegation is diminishing the Six Nations and Rugby Championship.
Italy have a free pass every season and no pressing need to improve, Scotland have won the wooden spoon four times in the Six Nations but bad seasons mean nothing. Argentina played their socks off to be given Rugby Championship status belatedly but now, as part of the cosy club, they have regressed.
Two global annual tournaments — one in Europe, one in the Pacific — with promotion and relegation would ignite the game and bring full houses for every match.
Scotland have won the Six Nations wooden spoon four times but bad seasons mean nothing
2 – VOTE FOR DEMOCRACY
The extraordinary perversion of democracy and good governance at World Rugby is alarming.
Ten nations — the Six Nations and the four Rugby Championship teams — have three votes each and the other 70-plus rugby nations have 21 between them.
Italy, ranked 14th in the world, have three votes yet Japan (ninth) have two and Georgia (12th) just one. Why has this been allowed to continue? Who governs rugby — the world governing body or a cabal of 10 nations?
The extraordinary perversion of democracy and good governance at World Rugby is alarming
3 – VOTE FOR TRANSPARENCY
Votes on all matters must be transparent. However the delegates vote on Sunday, they must be prepared to go back to their unions, be scrutinised by members and defend their vote if needs be, then change if required next time around.
The media and rugby public should be made aware at all times who voted for what and why. No more smoke-filled rooms and horse-trading.
4 – VOTE TO ABOLISH THE TERMS TIER 1 AND 2
Why are World Rugby allowed to persist with these inappropriate phrases? All teams should be treated equally — then let the best rugby teams, the most talented players, emerge.
And why does everything take so long? World Rugby seem to meet only every six months and make major decisions every four years. Let’s speed that up, let’s have a streamlined World Rugby.
5 – VOTE TO SUPPORT THE PACIFIC NATIONS
Why is World Rugby so dismissive of the Pacific Islands who account for more than 15 per cent of professional rugby players? Why do their best players often feel compelled to play for other countries? Why do the island teams only get one vote each as opposed to Italy’s three?
Fiji have reached the World Cup quarter-finals twice, are the Olympic rugby champions and masterful sevens players. Italy need to rediscover their passion for the game and a good start would be to vote for change. How could Fiji or any ‘Tier 2’ nation not vote for change? The current system has totally failed them.
Fiji have reached the World Cup quarter-finals twice but Pacific nations are often dismissed
6 – VOTE FOR FAIR DISTRIBUTION OF WORLD CUP PROFITS
What exactly happens to all the World Cup profits, which are in excess of £100million every four years? Let’s have some transparency on this. Does everybody get the same slice or do the top 10 nations cream off most of the profits? Is there any attempt at positive discrimination? Does World Rugby ever consider truly investing in emerging nations?
And gate receipts. The Pacific Islands got virtually nothing for their part in an 80,000 Twickenham sell-out with revenues of more than £12million, yet England won’t tour the islands. That is just plain wrong.
What happens to all the World Cup profits, which are in excess of £100m every four years?
7 – VOTE FOR A WIDER ROLE FOR THE LIONS
Why, for the best part of a century, should only New Zealand, Australia and South Africa derive the massive economic benefit of a Lions tour?
The Lions should also occasionally tour Uruguay, Canada and the United States — on one tour — and the Pacific Islands and Japan on another.
Why should only New Zealand, Australia and South Africa benefit financially from a Lions tour?
8 – VOTE AGAINST PLAYERS REPRESENTING TWO NATIONS
Because it will do nothing to prevent Pacific Islanders being tempted by New Zealand, Australia and even European teams like France and England. It would simply allow the big boys to run riot with the backing of officialdom as they cherry pick those who might be stars and discard the rest.
They will just become stronger and the value of representing Pacific nations would be undermined. Those who have tried out for other nations and done well financially would return to take the place of those who stayed loyal. The onus must be firmly on helping the Pacific Islands develop and keep their own players.
9 – VOTE TO ABOLISH PROJECT PLAYERS
These are mainly Kiwis and South Africans coming to live and play for clubs in Europe (getting very well paid in the process) and then being parachuted into national sides after three years. We all know deep down that this is wrong, so why don’t we outlaw it? At the very least insist on a seven-year residency to truly test the commitment of a player.
10 – VOTE FOR CHANGE AND A NEW FUTURE
Bill Beaumont thought I was being ageist the other day when I pointed out he is 68 and Gus is 45. I’m sure Bill is as fighting fit as ever and on the fitness bike every day during this lockdown but my point was generational not ageist.
Bill is a seasoned rugby administrator but never played or coached professionally during the professional era. He played Test rugby against eight teams — the rest of the Home Nations and the four SANZAAR teams — whereas Gus played all but one of his 71 Tests as a professional and got to play against 17 Test sides.
He played in the Premiership and France’s Top 14, he captained the Pumas side who morphed into a formidable nation. Change for the good and challenging the status quo is in his rugby DNA.
He knows what is needed over the next 10-15 years and I believe he has the vision to put rugby on the right path.
Beaumont (R) is a seasoned rugby administrator but Pichot can bring new energy to the role
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