World Rugby needs to change voting system

World Rugby

Following the recent elections of the Chair position at World Rugby, won by the incumbent Sir Bill Beaumont, some obvious flaws in the voting system were raised. Robert Rees takes a look at why the system must change in the future to ensure a fairer result and equity across the member unions. 

Unbalanced voting system

24 unions and entities had at least one vote in the 51-vote election, but it wasn’t entirely fair or representative of union’s votes. Germany had aired their view that Rugby Europe didn’t fully engage with them to see their views on who they should vote for.

24 unions in Asia wanted to vote for Agustin Pichot, two for Beaumont and two abstained. But, these were only represented by Rugby Asia’s two votes for Pichot. This was then cancelled out by Japan’s two votes for Beaumont.

There was a similar disdain in other continents.

Too many votes in one place

The majority of votes belong to the nations in the Six Nations (18) and in the Rugby Championship (12).

18 votes belonging to just six unions, in a race to 26 votes, is far too much, especially when they all voted for Beaumont and only the WRU (Wales) listened to the case of Pichot. This is slightly balanced out by the entirety of the Rugby Championship’s 12 votes, but still puts a northern hemisphere candidate in the ascendancy.

World Rugby
The entire voting decisions from the Chair election. Credit @nzsportradio.

Time to give more unions a vote

Uruguay have recently been granted access to a World Rugby Council meeting, but do not have a vote, only via South America Rugby. The same goes for follow World Cup qualifiers Russia.

Germany’s plight in their lack of a voice sums up why more countries should be given a voice. To balance out and make the election fairer, and to allow more member unions to have their say.

Established nations such as Tonga have earned their chance to vote. It doesn’t make sense to award votes to Fiji and Samoa, but not to Tonga who can only have their say under Oceania.

Award Tonga, Germany, Russia, Uruguay, Romania and Spain more votes to push it to 67 total votes and 29 majority. Already the election is fairer and more balanced.

You could promote established nations to two votes and then award the new ‘tier two’ countries one vote, and any strong nations on the World Sevens Series could also be awarded with one vote. Nations such as Hong Kong, Kenya etc would fall under this category.

Not only does this take away the Six Nations’ power to all but decide the election, but it awards nations who have served a strong place in the World Rugby structure.

How does this new system look?

Well, most nations don’t increase in their votes, and none drop any. There are some who gain votes or are given a vote for the first time.

Here is how the newly former voting structure would look;

  • Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland, Italy, France, Australia, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand (3 votes each)
  • Japan, Canada, Georgia, Fiji, Samoa, Romania, USA, Uruguay, Europe, South America, Americas North, Africa, Asia, Oceania, Tonga (2 votes)
  • Germany, Russia, Spain (1 vote)
  • Hong Kong, Kenya, Portugal and Chile are granted one vote each for their Sevens Series contributions.

Polling period time must shorten

The polling period is over several days and needs to be cut short to one day. This isn’t hard to do when you’re talking of months of build up to talk to candidates and see manifestos. The length of time after polls closed until results are also announced needs to be shortened, as it was this year.

There is no requirement for results to take two weeks to be counted, and so in the future the polls should close after 24 hours with results announced within the next 24.

Beaumont wants more power to ‘newly established nations’

The Chairman of World Rugby has indicated that under his next four-year term he will eradicate the term ‘tier two’ and call those nations ‘newly established’ countries.

If the former English international truly wants to unite the global game and bring more power to these countries then he will put some added risk to his own position, upon future elections, by making changes to the current voting system.


“Main photo credit”

World Rugby
DUBLIN, IRELAND – MAY 11: (L-R) Bill Beaumont (new Chairman of World Rugby) and Agustin Pichot (new Vice-Chairman of World Rugby) address the assembled gathering during a media conference to introduce the new World Rugby Chairman and Vice-Chairman on May 11, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)