Column: Fitting the Bill

Re-elected World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont needs to eradicate the discrepancies between the north and south, writes former Springbok STEFAN TERBLANCHE in the latest SA Rugby magazine.

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The more things change the more they stay the same. Or do they? With Covid-19 unfortunately in full swing, turning the sporting world upside down, millions are reassessing their lives on how they could possibly make changes for the better once back to ‘normal’.

World Rugby also reassessed its future over this time and with a clear and unanimous decision reached during the first round of voting. Sir Bill Beaumont was again selected to serve another four-year term in command.

One would think that with the best players and teams from down south – just look at World Cup winners over the last nine tournaments: there’s an 8-1 advantage to southern hemisphere teams – the administration should reflect the same representation at the top table of leadership. However, this is clearly not the case and you can only wonder why.

If we break this down, it is abundantly clear the money and big revenue are up north and that the top players are from down south. My opinion will probably be disputed by professional players up north, but that’s not my intention.

Please don’t get we wrong, up north there are some of the most celebrated and individually talented payers I have ever seen and had the privilege of playing with and against. But as far as national and Test teams go, the power lies down south – full stop!

Let’s get back to the administration of the game, though, and again I find it hard to believe that leaders from the south don’t have the ability and know-how to do the job. But I guess there is a huge difference between know-how and gaining enough support to get into that sort of leadership position first.

Vernon Pugh filled the role of chairman first, followed by Syd Millar, Bernard Lapasset and then Beaumont serving the past four years. They are all from up north!

Agustin Pichot, the former Argentina scrumhalf and captain was widely backed to take over from Beaumont, but was ultimately ousted. His vision was to totally transform the game, going so far as to propose encouraging more youngsters to start playing Esport games, like Fifa, to trigger their interests.

He was also determined to implement a global season, in which north and south would have the same playing season, which is a debate that’s been raging for years without a clear vision and plan in place.

Money makes the world go round, though, and in rugby the same can be said. With most of the top earners playing in the northern hemisphere, it is clear where the money comes from.

Northern hemisphere competitions like the Six Nations, along with the international Test matches against the giants from the south, are massive money spinners, not only for the home unions but also for the visiting teams.

If you throw in the British & Irish Lions tour every four years down south you have a large percentage of revenue right there. Leaders in a position as powerful as the chairman of World Rugby should not have issues on how they split the pot and only rugby should be served.

I really hope that Beaumont has built up enough experience and support within World Rugby to make these changes so desperately needed in these difficult times.

If World Rugby can’t see that these changes are needed, then the people who put these leaders in their respective positions should be seriously questioned. I back Beaumont to make these changes and to make rugby a lucrative game loved by all, but most importantly the die-hard ticket-buying fans who fill up the stadiums.

*This article first appeared in our June magazine, which is now on sale

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