Both World Rugby Chairman candidates Agustín Pichot and Sir Bill Beaumont want Rugby to expand and spread around the world. But whoever wins should apply the brakes because the foundations of Rugby are rotting away.
The current financial state, and even more so during the Coronavirus pandemic, of the strongholds in rugby is weak. The RFU have been losing money for years, the need for SANZAAR to return to rugby has been well documented, and nations like Fiji have previously struggled to complete international tours.
Pichot and Beaumont both want to introduce rugby to new territories. Pichot mentions Brazil in his manifesto but countries like this will not be able to grow when the traditional rugby countries are struggling to cope. Rugby will quickly burnout in Brazil without the correct funding.
Beaumont, the current chairman looking for a second term, underlines the fact that the World Cup can’t have the same eight countries reaching the quarter-finals in 15-20 years. The former England international is correct, but it’s a process which can’t be rushed.
Reviewing World Rugby’s financial policy is all well and good, but a reality check needs to be applied to the individual authorities. The next chairman must force the RFU, SANZAAR and others to look at themselves and jointly plan a way of making the game financially stable before the kings collapse.
Within the last 12 months each Premiership Rugby Club, including Gloucester, received around £13million from private investors CVC. The player and staff pay cuts as a result of COVID-19 shows the majority of this money has been drained from all teams.
The speed at which this has seemingly disappeared shows how desperate the clubs were. This income was needed. All teams except Exeter Chiefs are recording losses. Alarm bells are ringing at Wasps who reportedly had “six months of cash” left in February prior to the lockdown.
Leicester Tigers were unsuccessful in their attempts to attract a buyer while Gloucester reported a total pre-tax loss of £2,181,194, following on from the £1.2m loss they made the previous year.
In February 2020, the RFU announced significant funding cuts to the Greene King Championship clubs. Funding cuts that were met with harsh criticism. If funding for this league which is a talent pool for international clubs can’t be kept up then questions have to be asked.
It might have been a “deplorable” move, but the RFU wouldn’t have applied this cut unless they had to. The fact of the matter is, the next chairman must make sure the current status of rugby is secure.
Growing and building on rotten foundations is not a good idea. It doesn’t make the sport attractive to new investors. The growth will not be successful and will burn bridges.