He may be a long shot but rugby needs modernising and Agustin Pichot being at the helm could be just what the game needs. With the result of the election for World Rugby chairman due to be announced on May 12, the Argentine is a late entrant in a contest that is often a one-horse race, but the coronavirus has shown us how much work we have to do as a sport and a fresh take is needed.
Of course, all sports and almost all industries are suffering to some extent at the moment but it hasn’t taken long for many clubs and unions to be brought to the brink of bankruptcy and there is no doubt rugby isn’t yet the global sport we should all want it to be.
Bill Beaumont is a legend in English rugby and has done a decent job over the past four years by all accounts. It’s also unfair to characterise him as some sort of dinosaur as he is also advocating change, but Pichot certainly looks like he would shake things up more.
There is one note of caution in that we have seen what too much change too often has resulted in over in the southern hemisphere and we don’t want to fall into that trap, but it’s time for more radical change in rugby and it’s time for action.
Financially, some of the bigger unions in the game are currently getting an insight into the kind of struggles that the smaller unions have had over the years. Revenue sharing isn’t ever going to be equal between all countries but it should be fairer than it is.
“Too many rugby games have been a waste of time and money, highlighting the need for better products if the sport is to really crack the video games market,” writes @CameronJDPetrie in the wake of Agustin Pichot’s comments earlier this week https://t.co/FLcvkcI26P
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 16, 2020
The efforts to nail down a global calendar surely now have to bear more fruit regardless of who wins the election and both candidates are keen on reviving the Nations Championship idea that was shot down in flames last year.
How that looks may be different depending on who wins, though, with Beaumont confirming that promotion and relegation from the Six Nations isn’t on the table.
At the moment without a global season, it’s almost impossible to fit in playoff games to decide on potential promotion and relegation from the Six Nations but that is something that should be resolved now and it’s necessary to grow the game.
Pichot has also mentioned as part of his manifesto the need to create a new computer game. Many will look at that as a gimmick or certainly will have done at first glance but it is anything but.
The world of esports is massive nowadays and extremely lucrative but, more importantly, a game at a similar level to FIFA in football or Madden in American football could bring in hordes of younger fans and that is something rugby badly needs.
The voting system itself is one thing that needs changing and that is likely to be Pichot’s main barrier in this race. The Six Nations and Rugby Championship unions all have three votes each out of a total of 51 and the majority are likely to opt for Beaumont.
To some extent, the bigger unions voting for Pichot could be likened to turkeys voting for Christmas but some, especially in the southern hemisphere, may have less to lose now and take a broader view or see it as necessary for the good of the game.
The likes of England, France, Italy, Fiji and Romania are already in Beaumont’s corner so it’s going to be an uphill battle for the ex-Argentina scrum-half – and it isn’t just the tier one nations voting for the Englishman.
Whoever takes the helm as World Rugby's next chairman will rely heavily on a select few nations.https://t.co/tOVjcFL9uV
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 18, 2020
I’m not advocating a system where each country gets one vote but it shouldn’t be the case that if the Six Nations and the main SANZAAR unions vote the same way, they win every time.
I’d love to see Pichot given an opportunity to modernise the sport and bring about real change… but with the understanding that making too many sweeping changes too quickly can have an adverse effect.
There wasn’t a vice-chairman nominated alongside Pichot so if he needs someone to keep him in check and come up with a few more policy ideas such as mandatory gloves and red cycling shorts for all players, I’m just a phone call or a tweet away!
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