Bill Beaumont has addressed the media following his successful re-election as the Chair of World Rugby. He discussed improvements to the women’s game, the global season, broadcasting and Sevens as a driver for popularity.
Robert Rees brings you the full interview.
Bill Beaumont – The opening address
“I’d like to express my thanks to the World Rugby Council, the EXCO and individual unions who place their trust in myself and Bernard LaPorte to drive the game forward in the next four years. I also have to thank my family.
“I’d also like to pay tribute to Gus [Pichot] whilst we’ve stood against each other for this elections, we were aligned in many, many ways and I’ve got a lot of respect for him and would like to thank him for his work with me as Vice-Chairman these last four years.
“In this world of sport we live in at the moment this election has seemed to capture the imagination of the rugby world like no other. It shows how much we appreciate this game we’re proud to be a part of.
“I’d like to say I’m a good listener, I’ve always listened to administrators, players, coaches, fans and heed their advice because they are the DNA of our game. Come tomorrow its roll your sleeves up and get on with running our game, but at the moment we’re in the middle of the Coronavirus. We don’t know when we’re coming out of it, some countries are coming out quicker than others.
“We still have to plan the international and domestic games and already you can see that there are differences in opinion whereby French government said there would be no sport played at all until September whereas in the UK there is still a desire to play before then.
“There is a desire from the north and south to reunite our game.”
New eligibility laws…
“Regulation eight, which controls the eligibility of players, one thing I’d like to see if to immediately get on that. With any change you need a two-thirds majority of the World Rugby Council, so that is a procedure for change. It would allow players who have played Sevens or an odd game for a tier-one nation, and by the end of my tenure, I’d like to get rid of the term ‘tier one’ and ‘tier two’.
“We have emerging nations and established nations.
“That will allow players to return to native countries. Out of this pandemic, there is an appetite to revisit the Nations Cup, involving the two windows that we currently have. Currently, the windows are still in November and July from the San Francisco agreement from a few years ago.”
How do you bring the windows together…
“These are very much in the embryo stage at the moment. We have to take all stakeholders with us. We’ve got to take the club and European game with us. There are more problems in doing this in areas with more stakeholders.
“Within that, you can have a competition within all those countries who play in those windows and below that an auxiliary competition for emerging nations so that they can play at the same time and bring in relegation and promotion.”
How long does this global season take to implement?
“The San Francisco agreement was done in one day with all the shareholders in one room. Obviously, this will take longer than that, but I do think the one thing that this dreadful pandemic has given us is that we all rely on each other.”
Has World Rugby got enough money to help unions?
“We announced £75m in the form of loans to unions that are in distress. That’s not enough, but in the world of sport, there isn’t a magic money pit. If we hadn’t had run a successful Rugby World Cup in Japan we would be facing a far bleaker outlook than we are.
“We’re in a position to help unions, but what we’re hoping to do is improve cash flow so they can replay postponed games going forward to relieve the cash pressure. We’ve got a system for allocating that which is underway at the moment.”
Women’s rugby growing….
“I’m challenging the World Rugby executives to find the money to commit to these [women’s] competitions and we have to find the money for this. We can’t just be in a position where we stop everything for the Coronavirus.
“This is part of our long term plan, it’s been passed by the women’s committee, that we can get this growth going as soon as possible.
“We’ve also got the Olympic Games coming up, we have the women’s World Cup in New Zealand next year and there is a high demand for women rugby players in the next 12-18 months.
“There is no reason why the women’s game will be delayed in its growth.”
Confidence in nations voting for change of eligibility
“We’d have to look at this from a global game aspect. I’ve always been a big supporter of this change. It gives us an opportunity to make certain countries, who are limited in player resources. The grandparent rule means the Pacific Islands are losing players.
“You’d have to have both unions to sign off and the Council, but it would improve competitiveness.”
Is Nations League dependant on Six Nations opening up relegation?
“That is for the unions involved to discuss, and it’s very difficult for World Rugby to impose that. We will debate it at length. The Six Nations is owned by the Six Nations, The Rugby Championship is owned by SANZAAR, but we will bring in a new competition that keeps the Six Nations as an independent competition, but maybe not all the six would play in it.
“Relegation would not be the intention. Currently, it hasn’t been discussed. We had fruitful discussions in January on implementing this in regions and improving these where we then have a play-off system of the best from each region playing each other.
“On top of that would be the new Nations Cup.”
World Rugby has re-iterated a strong emphasis on the competitions for tier two and three nations.
Can Sevens drive popularity of the sport?
“It is an incredible tool for developing the game. If you think of the likes of Kenya winning tournaments, Japan has been competitive and the Rio Olympics were a massive game-changer. It brought rugby into the forefront of countries who may have seen it but weren’t focused on it.
“It’s an incredible vehicle for expanding our game globally. Asia is an untapped market we need to take advantage of.”
Convincing the Six Nations to change…
“My job is to get, hopefully, consensus from everybody in the game. The area I’m from, and the rugby I’ve played I believe there is an appetite to look at a Nations Cup. Nobody has mentioned to me about the Six Nations moving, but only the July/November windows.
“The Six Nations, why would you move it? Because it’s not affecting anybody else’s window on the global calendar. It’s been played in February and March for a long time and doesn’t affect any other windows.”
Appealing to Pichot voters…
“You go by the power of your persuasion and your debate. Whatever happens in life not everybody is going to agree with you, but the plan is to reach a consensus. I’d like to think I’ve got four years to come and make a difference through plenty of talks. I realize there are two sides to every argument and respect the other person’s point of view.”
Playing back to back Test windows…..
“We have been in dialogue. Currently, the International Players Association has been at the forefront of the discussions since the word go. I will make sure that players are at the heart of the decision making and they have been in the talks with us.”
Do World Rugby has the power to create a new Test window?
“We can move windows, certainly, so it is within our remit, but what you’d have to do is do it in consultation, knowing you have to do it via consensus. If you want to play on Christmas Day then there isn’t any reason why not.
“Any move is in consultation with our stakeholders and clubs, so we have a whole-game opinion.”
How do you get clubs on board?
“What we’re trying to do is find a solution to when we can start. Everything at the moment is scenario planning. It’s just extremely difficult at the moment to put a market out there and say we will start now. Once we know when we can start playing is when we start dialogue properly.”
In a World Cup cycle, how often does someone like England play an emerging nation?
“Out of the San Francisco agreement, there was 38% more game between tier-one teams and emerging nations. Until we sit down and put the jigsaw together that is very difficult to confirm what these fixtures are going to be.
“There is an appetite for tier one countries to play tier two and it’s good for both countries.”
Any plans for rule changes amid social distancing?
“I have not been privy to any discussions on rule changes. We’re looking at how we get the game back going at whatever level that may be.”
Voting structure change?
“Since I’ve been Chairman, the voting structure has been changed. We now have countries having votes who never had one before. Samoa, Uruguay, USA and Fiji didn’t have a say before.
“Whatever changes are made in World Rugby aren’t necessarily by the Chairman, but can be pushed by countries who push for a rule change in a World Rugby meeting.”
Major competitions going to Paywall TV…
“That is a decision for the Six Nations to do so, we can’t dictate to competitions what platforms they use. The only thing we control is the areas we negotiate ourselves. There will be challenges and different means of transmission in ten years time is likely, so we need flexibility.
“This is a change we will embrace, as I’m sure all unions will as well.”
Bill Beaumont will now serve a four-year term.
“Main photo credit”