Bill Beaumont has pledged to organise a major review of the way World Rugby is run if he is re-elected as chairman next month. The former England captain faces a challenge for the role from his vice-chairman, Agustin Pichot, who is campaigning on a reform ticket.
Beaumont published his manifesto on Tuesday – supported by the French Rugby Federation chairman, Bernard Laporte, who is running for vice-chairman. It proposes a major administrative shake-up with greater emphasis on emerging nations.
“Our aim is to have a more representative and diverse international federation that better serves the game, not one that is seen to only support the ‘old guard’,” said Beaumont, who is being painted as a diehard traditionalist in comparison to Pichot.
“To achieve our aim of a strong international federation with a clear vision, we are proposing a wide-ranging governance review led by two independently appointed people. All major rugby stakeholders will be consulted, as will experts from outside the game, to help bring in fresh ideas and perspective.
“We believe that rugby is at a crossroads. If we work together there is an opportunity to make it a truly global sport played by more at the highest level and enjoyed by more at every level.”
Beaumont is driving World Rugby’s review of the state of the game with sport suspended throughout the world because of the coronavirus. Contingency plans are expected to be announced this week with not only the July tours to the south highly unlikely to go ahead but the November window in Europe under threat as governments consider continuing the restrictions on international travel into the autumn.
“Coronavirus is having a big impact on rugby globally,” said Beaumont. “In tough times like these we need our sport to come together. It is only by working together that we can succeed. It is often true that the biggest challenges create the biggest opportunities and it is no different for rugby. We must help each other through these tough times.
“We need World Rugby, as our international federation, to be fit for purpose and seen as world leading. We need to define our purpose and mission and what kind of organisation we want in order to lead us into the future. Only then can we decide what the strategic objectives are.
“For rugby to thrive we need it to grow into a global sport and move beyond its traditional territories. We need a coherent and meaningful global calendar that supports those at the top of the game and develops those aspiring to be there. We also need to make our sport more attractive to everyone who plays and watches as well as the broadcasters.”
Beaumont, who is campaigning for women to be represented at every level of decision-making in the game, was behind World Rugby’s plan for a nations championship which foundered last year because it failed to attract the support of all of the Six Nations. Scotland and Ireland were concerned at the potential impact of relegation as the tournament, along with the Rugby Championship, would have divisions of emerging nations beneath it.
Those divisions are being set up. The plan was to start them next year, but the launch may be pushed back to 2022 because of the present uncertainty. Pichot has made it a central part of his campaign and Beaumont believes it would offer unions, some of which are fearing losses of up to £50m this year, greater financial security.
“World Rugby needs to review its financial policies and not rely on those who have traditionally underpinned the game,” said Beaumont. “A review of how World Rugby funds the game needs to be transparent and, most importantly, we have to look after the health and welfare of our players. Without them, there is no game.”
Beaumont wants to develop a season that eliminates the overlap between club and country. “We will bring the tier one and two unions together to devise a plan for a global competition structure that better supports unions at the top and those aspiring to get there. We will consider plans that support international competition between countries and, in consultation with stakeholders, consider concepts that could support an international club competition after the 2023 World Cup.”
He said World Rugby was setting up a coronavirus recovery working group made up of key leaders from across the game. Its remit will be to make recommendations to the executive on how the governing body can help unions to recover from the financial impact of Covid-19.