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Monday, January 16, 2006


General Discussions: Rugby shamed by World Cup vote farce

The controversy surrounding New Zealand’s right to host the 2011 tournament has disgraced the game and must never happen again.

Source: The Sunday Times,
By: Stephen Jones

THE bitterness caused by the horse-trading and secrecy surrounding the vote for the right to host the 2011 World Cup was revealed by The Sunday Times last week, together with the disregard by many voting nations for the merits of the bids.

The three contenders spent £3m between them — wasted money. With the possible exceptions of the Rugby Football Union and the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), it is anybody’s guess as to what was the underlying motivation behind each vote cast.

If New Zealand proves to be the best host, the victory will have, in effect, come by default. Our revelations about the disquiet of the Asian RFU, first caused by the successful Irish motion that voting should be kept secret, were simply a flavour of the true poison. But there is a wider issue here, wider even than the fact that the World Cup vote, as International Rugby Board (IRB) insiders told me on Friday, can never be conducted in the same way again.

The truth is that the IRB can never be the same again. Every key decision it takes on the progress of world rugby is made on the basis of self-interest and selfishness by the individual rugby nations. In none of its recent decisions has there been any discernible concern for the game’s general good.

This clearly calls into question the chairmanship of Dr Syd Millar. I have always had enormous respect for him, but he has failed in the challenge he set himself when he took over — to take the whole thing away from backyard brawling and the self-interest of the major nations, into true internationalism.

Millar’s knowledge of rugby is unsurpassed. He has made no secret of the fact that the decline of true forward play and the rise in the use of replacements has disfigured the sport. But even in these, his specialist areas, he has failed to bring the game at large with him and the IRB is hamstrung in its work because individual nations cannot see further than the end of their noses.

It is time for a major figure to take over the chairmanship, to try to take on the power of the big nations.

The internal organisation of the IRB is fine. In its technical, refereeing, marketing, media and other departments, it is staffed by decent individuals with a global vision. But this inner core is still at the mercy of the IRB Council, and it would take a logistical and constitutional shift of seismic proportions to allow the IRB centre to function normally.

The poison drips all over. This week we can reveal that the World Cup vote caused one of the most ferocious arguments ever seen in the French rugby federation, and that takes in some barnies.

The root of the trouble was that Fira, the body representing almost 20 of the smaller European nations, voted for Japan. The French federation president, Bernard Lapasset, took such exception to this that he tore into Jean-Claude Baqué, the Fira president who also sits on the French federation.

Faced with this assault, Baqué resigned from Fira, but the most recent Fira meeting raised two fingers to France and he was unanimously re-elected.

Not even countries, apparently, are allowed their own mind. Australia voted for Japan. However, Jock Hobbs, chairman of the New Zealand Rugby Union, was incensed: “Our concern is that the ARU board chose to support Japan. I have written to the ARU . . . outlining our concerns and the damage this decision has done to the Australia-New Zealand relationship.”

The affair has even led to the resignation of Dilip Kumar, the chairman of the ARU. Do Messrs Lapasset and Hobbs never stop to consider that Fira and Australia might just have seen something they liked in somebody else’s bid? What of the Asian RFU’s disquiet? Last week we learnt that the Japanese Rugby Football Union had formally asked Jamie Scott, the secretary of the Asian RFU, if he had cast the Asian vote for Japan, as was his clear mandate. Scott said he had, but the fact that he was forced to clarify the matter was ludicrous.

Last week Scott sent a barrage of emails (all of which have reached The Sunday Times) trying to establish that, because of the loose nature of the Asian RFU constitution, he could act as the spokesman in an emergency.

The biggest irony of all lies in the result. We are confident, after extensive investigation, that the final vote was either 13-8 or 12-9 in favour of New Zealand. This was achieved democratically and time will tell if it was good for the game.

Nobody doubts New Zealand’s rugby passion. But think what could have been avoided by the simple expedient of revealing the vote, by being open and honest. Asia, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Fira and the IRB could have avoided rugby union’s most embarrassing episode.

It simply cannot be allowed to happen again. The voting procedure, and the core operation of the IRB, must change. Otherwise this enormous embarrassment will recur every four years.
"In none of (the IRB's) recent decisions has there been any discernible concern for the game’s general good."

I'm sure Argentina and the PI's will agree to this statement.

He calls the voting process "democratic". Perhaps a better choice of word would have been "cooked" as this is exactly what happened (and why "the World Cup vote, as IRB) insiders told me on Friday, can never be conducted in the same way again.")
This is a shocking indictment of the IRB.

The process was not democratic at all.

That the Kiwis feel it necessary to write a 'letter of concern' to the ARU over their voring is shocking.

That some Kiwi can claim he acts as "Chairman" of the Asian Rugby Union" trying to vitiate a request for clarity that the President asked for is shocking.

That the French can fly into a rage because the European rugby nations supported Japan is shocking.

That there can be this kind of bribery and corruption before the vote is similarly shocking.

Time will tell if this bribery and corruption was in rugby's best interest.

No wonder SARU is such a mess, given that the IRB sets such an awful example.
Good points, David.

Seems that all of rugby has a way to go.

In the interim I take 'spreading the game' with a pinch of salt.

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"Keep the money to ourselves"
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