Rugby's leaders go to the polls‚ online‚ in a secret ballot to decide its chairman‚ deputy chairman and members that will sit on its elite executive committee. All 51 votes, to be held in a secret ballot, must be cast by Thursday, and the results will be released on May 12.
The gamble Agustin Pichot took to step down as vice-chairman to take on current chairman Bill Beaumont to not only cost him his place on the board of World Rugby but certainly also will cost the rugby community who needs to free itself from the Northern Hemisphere stranglehold.
Pichot last year saw his proposals knocked back for a Nations League that would combine the northern hemisphere Six Nations and the southern hemisphere’s Rugby Championship into a single global competition that would also include so-called emerging countries.
"I want a global game, I want more direct investment. With this crisis now, it is obvious we have to take care of not just the emerging nations, but also the established ones as well. It is a crucial moment to start reshaping the game."
"The game already had a crisis, not only about the alignment of the calendar but also not having efficient management," Pichot said in an interview with Reuters.
"In January, we decided, with a lot of nations, to challenge the status quo. We thought things would be under big pressure [this year], and two months later, coronavirus hits the world and we thought, 'now is the time'."
"Everyone should have an equal vote in a democratic way, that is how you create an equal game."
On the face of it, the respective manifestos of Bill Beaumont and his challenger Agustin Pichot aren’t dramatically different. Where they will differ is how they set their priorities. Beaumont in favour of the Northern hemisphere countries to remain in control of World Rugby while Pichot is on a crusade to spread control of the game worldwide.
Beaumont‚ a decorated former England and British and Irish Lions captain is a rugby blue blood. Recognising that time’s up for the traditional way of doing things‚ Beaumont has embraced change‚ but at a pace only applauded by his supporters.
In stark contrast to the Beaumont‚ Pichot for 13 years was an all-action Los Pumas scrumhalf. As a player, he was a bit of a maverick‚ if not agent provocateur‚ and as an administrator, he has operated with the same pluck‚ desperate to disrupt and throw the established order off its axis. He wants to revise the way the game is governed‚ radically alter its international calendar so that it is more aligned with both hemispheres‚ tighten eligibility regulations‚ as well as interrogate the game’s more burdensome laws.
However, not since the sport officially turned professional in 1996 and World Rugby’s (former International Rugby Board) top brass were elected to their positions has an official from the southern hemisphere been chairman.
That is partly because the game is still run by Europeans‚ particularly founder members and the so-called Home Unions Ireland‚ Scotland‚ Wales‚ as well as England.
Membership to rugby’s top table is loosely based on when IRB membership was granted‚ with those in the elite getting three votes. It means a disproportionate number of 22‚ of the 51 available votes‚ are in European hands.
“Sportsmail reported earlier this week that there is a chance both the Irish and Welsh are considering the option of aligning with counterparts in the Southern Hemisphere by supporting the Argentine,” said the report.
Of the 51 members on the World Rugby Council who will vote 30 are split between 10 nations Argentina, Australia, England, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Wales.
Asia Rugby President, Mr Qais Abdulla Al Dhalai announced Friday that at the close of voting to determine Asia’s vote for the next World Rugby Chairman by its 28 voting member unions, 24 voted for Agustin Pichot while 2 voted for Bill Beaumont with 2 abstentions.
Australia has already committed to supporting Pichot’s while their Sanzaar partners New Zealand and South Africa have been tight-lipped and cagey‚ and have nominated each other for representation on the executive committee.
They have less reason to hide in the shadows now that Beaumont's ally‚ Fiji’s controversial rugby boss Francis Kean pull out of the race for a seat on the Exco. Kean was one of the eight nominees for the seven available spots but a brewing scandal has forced his hand.
Beaumont and Pichot nominated for Chairman
Bernard Laporte nominated for Vice-Chairman
Executive Committee nominations - Eight nominations have been received for the seven available positions on the World Rugby Executive Committee but with the withdrawal of Kean (Fiji) the following people will automatically be appointed.
1) Mark Alexander (South African Rugby Union)
2) Khaled Babbou (Rugby Africa)
3) Bart Campbell (New Zealand Rugby)
4) Gareth Davies (Welsh Rugby Union)
5) John Jeffrey (Scottish Rugby Union)
6) Bob Latham (USA Rugby)
7) Brett Robinson (Rugby Australia)