Now Brett Gosper is gone, what direction will World Rugby head in?

Now Brett Gosper is gone, what direction will World Rugby head in?

It might not so much be the where, it could be as much the what, why, and when. Because now that Brett Gosper – CEO of World Rugby – has gone to the NFL, important questions on direction, motivation, and its political desires are raised.

His term was not a poor one. In fact, two successful Rugby World Cups give him a fair reflection although, it will be known for many claims. Yet in reality, fewer were achieved, or able to proceed.

So whoever replaced Gosper, the CEO of World Rugby must be a person who can ‘get things done’. The ability to operate a World Cup is one thing. The process of voting for, the associations made then and the direction in which any enlarged pool of teams and/or, how the revenue is shared are factors to be of concern to Tier One, Two….and all of the unions and territories where rugby union wishes to be played in.

So looking at who might replace Brett Gosper, at where, why, and when the organization should provide an idea of what direction World Rugby [might] head in.

Now Brett Gosper is gone, what direction will World Rugby head in?

Internally, World Rugby has able replacements. First on the list must be Alan Gilpin. Chief Operating Officer, and leading all Rugby World Cup operations up to this point. The global governing body’s executive committee has insisted on a proper recruitment process. Gilpin is still regarded as a frontrunner although, who else might wish to apply?

Most, if not all Tier One (T1) executives will have prepared applications. It is a natural elevation for any European, or Southern Hemisphere union’s bosses to place their name in the ring. Think Jurie Roux, Steve Tew, Nicky Comyn, or others.

Could former Vice Chairman, Agustin Pichot be a possibility? Might he be confident? or were all his bridges burned whilst being turned down for the top job? (unlikely).

What about head of Women’s rugby Katie Sadleir? Ably qualified, and a popular figure. With the emphasis now on ‘inclusion’ and equitable rights, her consideration must be factored in.

The names are just one element to discuss. As much who but more so, why, what, and when. As the why will be considerate of policies and goals that have occurred over the time that Gosper was in the senior leadership group. A part of many positive initiatives whilst always promoting the global game. And that should be the direction which any new chief executive must point World Rugby in.

A Global body cannot be encumbered by Politics

Often, Gosper got caught up in needing to speak about the politics of the game. He would add comment on laws, expansion of competitions – often heralding a US or South Africa team/s in PRO Rugby, only to speak too soon or [more so] against the grain. The Chairman should too be cautious of overstating promises. That was the fate of the former Vice Chairman.

Current VC, Bernard Laporte is mindful of that. After securing the France 2023securing the France 2023 vote, he advanced to the top table and even while his ambitions may only be hidden under the surface, any new CEO has to stay unencumbered by ‘rugby politics’. A delicate balance, where statements are based wholly on the accounts. On the intent, rather than simply intentions. A huge difference in mindfulness when it comes to developing nations, player welfare, and equity.

It must especially apply to access.

The Dublin fortress seems a world away from the plight of nations in Africa, Asia, or even parts of Europe. Spain needs it as much as Ethiopia, Laos, or Tonga do. So access to officials must not be minimized to ‘grand occasions’ in Ireland.

The new CEO has to be on the field. Be seen, not only heard. Gosper did this yet he always seemed to want to provide for the haves, not always the have nots.

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux arrives to hand in the SA Rugby bid submission for the 2023 Rugby World Cup to Brett Gosper, and Alan Gilpin, Head of RWC. (Photo by Getty Images)

If one goal is to be created, it would be in fair representation, and in contacts with the global sport. Ambassadors can do this yet, they need to ear of the boardroom. Who better than a CEO, a Vice Chair person, or the Chair itself. Close contact, feet on the ground but, without empty promises.

That has been the way of the IRB, of larger nations (of most world bodies to a degree). So the ability of the incoming replacement has to be empathetic, as well as compassionate. Listening, before speaking.

Maybe the most obvious task is to assign the hosting rights for the 2027, and 2031 World Cups. Rugby has recently experienced poor public relations in this process, so whatever learnings were found by the Bill Beaumont administration [including Alan Gilpin] has to be incorporated.

Settle RWC hosting rights equitably (and fast)

It should not be the only task set yet, it should be one of the more significant ones. The official word being; World Rugby is hoping to award the bids for both the 2027 and 2031 men’s World Cups (along with the bids for the 2025 and 2029 women’s World Cups) by May 2022. The process of talking to prospective nations will begin in February 2021 with the formal candidate process commencing three months later. Finalists will be evaluated in February 2022.

Is that timeline still valid with Covid-19 affecting the ability to travel? It should not. Visiting potential sites has to be one objective – one that both Gilpin and Sadlier have vast experience in. However, with technology showing how Zoom meetings are now the norm, on-site conversations can be done virtually. Still requiring independent evidence yet, would a highly qualified local authority, as well as a respected former player or ambassador be able to achieve that.

So that when countries are in fact able to make legitimate applications, then take that evidence in presentations first. Then speak face-to-face, before civil discussions begin. Not ones that are done in the public eye, or are influenced by any entitlement or financial backing. Every host must be considered on merit, as much as on their heritage, standing, or in current ‘RWC cycle’.

South Africa may have a favoured place, and if that proves the right call, than whichever nation is able to prepare for 2031 can be given all the time necessary. But in the mean time, T1, T2 and all the countries where rugby is played are respected for their input.

Possibly second may be the global calendar. Such a contentious topic, it has been argument rather than agreement. And it is agreement that World Rugby need the most. In this particular time, where every stakeholder has to afforded the same respect. Not just value, as it is not simply a numbers game. Participation too can only describe some of the characteristics of a nations worth.

The transition from Brett Gosper to the next administration has to be uncontested. But unlike in politics, the support structure beneath the leadership has to make great changes, if 2021 is to be the start of a positive new term.


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