The World Rugby Council has approved historic and wide-ranging reform of its governance structures.
World Rugby has been dominated by eight unions – the home nations, France, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – for more than a century, but the globalisation of the sport and clamour for fairer representation at the highest level has prompted reforms with cerrtain conditions.
To be eligible for council membership, a union must meet criteria such as five years of unqualified audited accounts, and a fully applied constitution.
In regard to voting rights, just to have one vote, a union must have played in the last two World Cups, as well as have an annual audited average investment in rugby of $30-million over the past four years, have bid or is bidding on a major World Rugby event over the last eight years, have a women's rugby programme and either played in qualifiers or competed in the Women's World Cup, and have a men's and women's sevens program competing internationally.
Those conditions will restrict eligibility for the likes of Pacific Island unions Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga, one of whom has made the quarter-finals at four World Cups, have players of their descent in most of the major teams, and suffered more than most from having to share one voice and vote on the council.
Despite the planned reforms, the voting power will remain in the hands of the big eight, who will jump to three votes each. The six regional associations will double their voting power with two each.