Rugby and the Virus

06/06/2020
Chairman World Rugby

Virus or not Bill Beaumont was re-elected as chairman for four more years, having spent the last few years invisible, even at the RWC where he botched the typhoon situation and left many countries licking their wounds.

All the six nations countries voted for him (payback time) in this most undemocratic ballot, with a 110 affiliated countries there are only 51 votes and it is first past the post. If that was not bad enough it is loaded in favour of the ten tier one countries that have three votes each.

At the end of the process - it appears that Beaumont guaranteed Japan a tier one ranking for their vote

The loser was Augustine Pichot (Argentina), who was vice President but lost out this time due to his progressive attitude to rugby - which did not go down well with other Tier One countries?

He promptly resigned all posts he held at World Rugby - having given it his best shot and after working hard in his four year shift.

Problem is Gus - If you are not in - you cannot win!

Bernard Laporte (France) supported Beaumont by procuring votes in Africa and was elected Vice Chairman

THE VIRUS

The pandemic has brought a panic to World Rugby (WR), to make changes - one of which is a World Rugby annual fixture schedule, TO TURN RUGBY ON ITS HEAD.

It has been talked about for the last four years under Beaumont but nothing concrete happened and low and behold in the middle of a pandemic crises situation they want to change the world…A good idea or not?

You would think that the business read of the situation would be to weather the virus storm and then look to it for the 2022/23 season in the cold light of results. The fact that a number of WR members are in receivership is academic in a situation like this as they are legislating for over 120 countries. Save the panic and plan for less turbulent days.

The IRFU got in a quick shot at the government on Friday the 22nd May in one of those video briefings that are all the rage now - needless to say to look for Funds ( money).

On the same day that the Celtic rugby company (IRFU a member) accepted an offer for €33.5M for a part of the GuinnessPRO14 tournament and the IRFU benefitted to the tune of €5.6M the very next day - and every year for three years. This is in addition to the net €25 million they received for the sale of land at Tallaght in 2019.

Government decision time:

It will be extremely difficulty to make a priority list on who will get the funding after the pandemic. Sport has it place at the full table as a serious recreation facility to occupy the nation and distract us.

The IRFU has the huge cost of almost €60 million to meet its professional rugby commitment at all levels of the game and it is funded by the national team. This is €5 million per month and all salaries have been reduced and deferred during the virus. Maybe deferred will be changed to permanent reductions for the “No match period”, with a worthwhile saving of up to €15 million.

The IRFU is a thirty two county association, and this will be recognised in any fixture lists. They employ approx 250 players and at least 200 other staff - so they have a strong case as an employer.

The IRFU would like to commence interprovincial games in August behind closed doors for TV money (they are a big draw in north and south ) and to give the players games to warm up for the vital test matches later in the autumn. It is a try on to see if they can get the government to move on “contact sports”, with the GAA, soccer, basketball etc looking in at the wings.

The real priority here is the 6N - to play the outstanding game against Italy (tickets sold - €4 M cash in the bank) at the Aviva and finish off the 6N 2020 with super Saturday (Ireland in Paris). This will release prize money funds to whoever is successful and finish off the tournament.

This is top of the tops and they need to be in front of maximum audiences at all the venues and they will be delayed until this is possible - even to December 2020.

In between the 6N, there will be room for European rugby to try to finish off the outstanding cup games and get to a final in Marseille, whether the knockout stages are behind closed doors is the big question and they will delay as long as possible to fulfil the fixtures .

Next in line is the Guinness PRO14 tournament to be brought to a conclusion”with the minimum of matches” to get a final and a result with an audience.

The current thinking on a fixture list is very provisional:

It’s early days and not to be too specific:
I think the proposal of playing games in August is too ambitious and a non starter - a more likely date is mid September for interpros, behind closed doors until the end of September

With luck a bit of a release in October to limited audiences governed by the law and the up to date virus requirements - to continue to defeat the virus. This could lead to progress in PRO14 and the Euro Cups competitions in October with two finals to be played.

Then the priority of the 6N takes over with the two weekends to complete the tournament on November.

To generate gate money and much needed funds it may leave room for test match fixtures at the end of November and December against very reputable tier one opposition like RWC champions South Africa.

If as reported globally that all the top Tier countries of WR are running short of cash we could offer lucrative games to them of one million euro fee to visit Dublin provided travel restrictions and self isolating have been rescinded.

So where does this leave the 2020-2021 season start-ups:

It will need a bit of initiative by all the tournament organisers to possibly curtail the number of games in the new season to get tournaments completed on time.

This includes the 6N - PRO14 and the Euro Cups and the Lions tour to South Africa in June 2021. This is still on the table and it is a real money machine for all - including the players - who received €80,000 fee each for participating in 2017 edition.
 

Report by Frank Quinn