Why rugby union must innovate or die: Part II

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    Yesterday, I gave some initial suggestions for why rugby union must innovate or die in the sporting market. Today I build on those suggestions with some ideas as to what rugby can do to improve the game worldwide and especially in Australia.

    I propose that the IRB funds a ‘Rugby Institute’: an independent rugby think tank which analyses major talking points within the game.

    Why should this be implemented? Because I believe that rugby’s progress forward is hindered by self-interest. What do I mean by self-interest?

    Decisions made by traditional nations that may not serve the best interests of the rugby community.

    How could this be possible? Look no further than the IRB voting system.

    These 28 votes are broken into different groups, with votes apportioned according to the rugby status of the nation concerned. 16 votes (two votes each) are given to “foundation unions” of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France. Four votes (one vote each) are given to Argentina, Canada, Italy and Japan.

    Six votes (one vote each) are given to regional associations representing Europe, North America and the Caribbean, South America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Two votes (one vote each) are given to the chairman and vice-chairman.

    This structure gives 57% of the voting rights to the established nations. However, it is the European bias which is the most concerning.

    Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England have 8/28 votes (28% of the total vote). If you include France, Italy and the rest of Europe, than this means that Europe gets 12 votes (43%), Oceania gets five votes (18%), Africa gets three votes (11%), Asia gets two votes (7%), North America gets two votes (7%), South America gets two votes (7%) and two votes go to the chairpeople.

    Also, most Council decisions require approval of simple majority, but to amend the IRB’s by-laws, regulations, or the Laws of the Game requires approval of three quarters of the Council.

    In a perfect scenario (assuming no back-scratching occurred) most Council decisions (which require majority) could bypass “Europe” on a vote of 16/12. However, if you add in the chairperson (who is based in IRB headquarters in Ireland), then this ends up 14/14.

    Potentially Europe gets 50% of the vote. Changing by-laws, regulations, or Laws of the Game (which requires three-quarters) is impossible without Europe. What this means, is that world rugby is effectively held to the decisions of the Home Nations + Italy.

    However, in order to ensure this is the correct assumption, we need a comparison. Below is the previous ARU voting structure which can help provide a comparison.

    Clear similarities emerge. Of the 14 votes five votes are given to New South Wales (36% of the total vote), three votes are given to Queensland (21% of the total vote) and six votes (1 vote each) given to VIC, ACT, SA, WA, NT, TAS (each has 7% of the total vote).

    It is no surprise that the key recommendation from the recent Strengthening the Governance of Australian Rugby recommended a number of changes to the ARU’s voting structure. Quoting the Hon Mark Arbib (p.19) – “[these voting rights are] out-dated and no longer serve rugby well”

    So what do voting rights have to do with “The Rugby Institute”?

    There is a rumour that the only reason the ARU was forced into making significant reform was due to Federal government withdrawals of funding unless they did not modernise their governance structure.

    Sadly, there is no incentive to modernise IRB governance. As such, I believe that any significant changes to the game are almost guaranteed to be voted down by the Home Nations + Italy.

    After all, why would they want to change the current situation? Why would they change the game where the rules suit them? Why would they want to increase the level of competition where they could lose to Pacific Island teams?

    Simply assuming that these countries will do everything in rugby’s best interest is naïve. Quoting Arbib (p.5), “the ARU cannot continue to rely solely on goodwill…to effective decision making….[the ARU] is currently too exposed to having its agenda hijacked by vested interests”.

    Therefore, the establishment of an independent, impartial and evidence-based approach to issues affecting rugby union removes subjective opinion and provides clear direction of the future of rugby.

    Self-interest has stagnated fifteens rugby. Furthermore, a perfectly substitutable product (rugby league) is rapidly rising in the Pacific. I believe that Europe is unaware and this is leaving the game vulnerable.

    Stay tuned for Part III, where I will write what I believe are the priorities for investigation for the Rugby Institute.

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    The Crowd Says (43)

    • December 1st 2012 @ 4:08am
      Mr Taylor said | December 1st 2012 @ 4:08am | ! Report

      I have no problems with the IRB been in charge of the game of rugby. If you were a rugby fan then you will know that the IRB have change the laws and rules of the sport 20 years, 10, 5 years, and even last year so its not like they aren’t. What I don’t want in rugby is exactly what is happening in rugby league where the NRL change the rules of the sports hoping for everyone to follow. I don’t want the the Heineken Cup tournament to have two refs controlling the game while super rugby has one. Rugby league fans aren’t happy with the NRL taking shoulder charge out of the game and decision like that should come from the international rugby league federation.
      The ARU will end up having their own independent commision its just a matter of when and the IRB will follow in time.

      • December 1st 2012 @ 1:41pm
        klestical said | December 1st 2012 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

        Hi Mr Taylor – I’m not arguing that the IRB should not be in charge of the game. I am simply saying that the IRB’s voting structure does not allow for the best outcomes. An independent analytical body to provide the advice may serve the game better.

      • December 1st 2012 @ 6:00pm
        MAJB said | December 1st 2012 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

        Mr Taylor,
        There are those who are suggesting that IRB is starting to behave in a manner similar to the IOC prior to the revelations made on vote rigging, buy etc. I saw, first hand, the absolute arrogance and vile behaviour, by some of the IRB delegates in my hotel in Auckland during the World Cup. The petty snobbery and other affectations made Tindal’s indiscretions seem minor. I was surprised that none of this pigishness reached the press. My friends and family from the UK tell me that this is nothing unusual. The question is should a great superior sport, such as Rugby Union, be represented by a body that is progressively becoming further corrupt. The IRB needs to be cleaned out from top to bottom and re-constituted and this needs to happen before the media start to drive it.

      • December 1st 2012 @ 11:40pm
        Mr Taylor said | December 1st 2012 @ 11:40pm | ! Report

        Nothing wrong with the IRB MAJB, I was also dining and drinking with some of the IRB delegates who happens to be from Samoa, Kenya, Fiji, Canda and Ireland. They are not from the home union like you and others make out to be. Most of the IRB are made up of members from 120 countries. A frined of mine who is a Samoa woman is also a IRB delegate. The IRB have been great for the sport and have invest money from RWC wisely. I know many rugby league fans aren’t happy with the international rugby league federation.

        • December 2nd 2012 @ 4:34pm
          MAJB said | December 2nd 2012 @ 4:34pm | ! Report

          Mr Taylor,
          As klestical demonstrates, in outlining the very dubious voting system that is designed to keep those in power, entrenched, there is considerably much wrong with the IRB. The IRB has become a corrupt body and from your reply I suspect that you may well be member of that corrupt organisation. Make no mistake the IRB will be exposed as was the IOC and more recently FIFA. I don’t anything about problem with the international League board as it is not my sport, so why did you throw in that furphy. Are you trying to distract from the real issue of another international sporting body being corrupted by those elected to it?

        • December 5th 2012 @ 12:42am
          Mr Taylor said | December 5th 2012 @ 12:42am | ! Report

          I already post before that the irb needs to change for the good of the sport. The IRB have only ever deal with real money from 1987 after the first RWC so its a very young organisation in a business sense. The IRB will eventually change its just the matter of when. I have not come up with any corruption ever in the IRB but if your talking about the voting for RWC host nations that’s very much out of their hands and into the hands of the voting unions.

    • December 1st 2012 @ 4:16am
      Johnno said | December 1st 2012 @ 4:16am | ! Report

      A good article klestical, I like the subjects your talking about, as it’s very important for rugby going forwad.
      Agreed the governance need review, and reform at the IRB. Europe makes all the money for now, and i say for now as Asia, and USA will push for more influence . Under the current IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset, he has pushed hard for global expansion in a big way, and rubbed a few of the home unions the wrong way, who want to to have more influence , and expand rugby less. They wanted Bill Beumont as chairman and so glad he didn’t get in. He is backwards and ex England rugby international, he claimed he wanted global progression but everything pointed the other way.
      Under Bernie, the IRB have now got 7even’s into the Olympics, a world series sevens circuit I believe, a womens sevens circuit is being launched this year and has started in Dubai this weekend. Also big money i begin spent in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas, . Places like Brazil and Mexico, Columbia,Venezuela,. .
      The UAE has now got the Durban sharks doing high performance coaching. the crusaders have a similar deal with Brazil rugby. So rugby is going global . And there is a lot of internal squabbling right now within the home unions about the HEK proposed changes in format.

      But the governance does need to be reformed, as Asia 4 billion people live in Asia, and we are part of Asia pacific so are part of that.

      Euro countries, like Portual,Spian,Belgium, all big jumpers and improvers. Spain in now 18th in 15 a side, Namibia has dropped down to about 24.
      Portugal overnight beat STH Africa in sevens, Kenya beat the aussies in sevens on the Gold Coast. So sevens is advancing.

      But the governance does need to change for sure at the IRB,.
      The rumour about the ARU doesn’t surprise me at all. NSW and QLD have too much influence in aussy rugby especially the Sydney centric side, and the lack of expansion outside of the private schools for junior development. A lot of old boys clubs, in australian rugby who will hold on too the bitter end. This governance review, which will get approved the review changes will help rugby no question, well overdue a long time coming .

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2012 @ 5:14am
      peeeko said | December 1st 2012 @ 5:14am | ! Report

      NSW represents 36% of the vote, i would argue that they more than represent 36% of all rugby participants, supporters and sponsors in Australia

      • December 1st 2012 @ 10:43am
        GWS said | December 1st 2012 @ 10:43am | ! Report

        They don’t represent me.
        Rugby in oz is being held back by the old boys network in Sydney

    • December 1st 2012 @ 5:23am
      Billy Bob said | December 1st 2012 @ 5:23am | ! Report

      Ah Klestical!… I love a prophecy even if it turns out to be false, there is wisdom in looking at trends.
      I noted that many posters to your previous article missed the point you were making which was beyond growth and numbers.
      As someone who has always enjoyed the David/ Goliath contest in any context, it is interesting to note that Goliath had the stats, the form and the history. But David had the rock, the sling and the secretly developed accuracy. David would get better odds if there was a rematch today but back then who would have picked him, other than his terrified family?
      So in your analysis of competing codes, there is potential wisdom (though admittedly not a lot of evidence). I for one see potential for league in the USA , due to its structural similarity to gridiron, though others have numbers and trends to dispute this.
      But I like the idea of another win for David there, even though I am a rusted on rugby tragic.
      And I live in hope of another win for David when rugby goes free to air in Australia and is part of the language in every smoko shed.

      • December 1st 2012 @ 1:50pm
        klestical said | December 1st 2012 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

        Hi BB – from the reaction of yesterday’s article – my wisdom is that I should never discuss Rugby Union and Rugby League in the same article! Admittedly, I should have spoken less of the ‘what if’ scenarios, but hopefully the basic argument was told.

      • December 1st 2012 @ 2:17pm
        RUGBY said | December 1st 2012 @ 2:17pm | ! Report

        Yesterday article was about the product as you call it. So what makes the NFL product more attractive in your eyes but not rugby union if you think fast is good?

    • December 1st 2012 @ 5:45am
      Billy Bob said | December 1st 2012 @ 5:45am | ! Report

      With regard to rugby sharing the ‘love’, be it money, power or success- who was it that said power is never voluntarily surrendered? And that political reform is always violently opposed?
      But in truth if there was a Nation (or region) of Origin rugby tournament, how would the team from the South Pacific go?
      The international status of the home nations as well as Australia would be threatened by more power sharing.

      • December 1st 2012 @ 6:08pm
        Greg said | December 1st 2012 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

        Wouldn’t you have the likes of McCaw playing for Scotland if you did that? Many players would qualify for the home nations if it were on ethnicity. People need to learn that ethnicity is different to nationality – players are actually lucky to qualify for another nation based on ethnicity – especially when they were born and raised in another country. Fact is the likes of Samoa would not be any where near the team they are today if it weren’t for NZ giving them the majority of there players.

        • Roar Rookie

          December 3rd 2012 @ 3:03am
          Neuen said | December 3rd 2012 @ 3:03am | ! Report

          haha that is so wrong. NZ rugby would be nowhere if it wasn’t for Pacific Islanders giving their contribution. People from Pacific Island backgrounds do not care about a country but care more about their culture. Altough they might be born in NZ they are raised according to their culture Samoan etc etc. Then everyone forget that these kids epsecially Samoan even born in NZ their culture states that they belong to their tribe or village. That is why you will find they are born in NZ but then go live with a aunty or grandad in the Pacific Islands till they old enough to go to school. Then these kids do not want to play for NZ because they were born there but due to the fact that their role models or heroes played for them. After all role models play a big role in their lives. Michael Jones was the reason for thousands of Pacific Islands kids wanting to play for NZ. NZ have identified this ages ago and that is why you will always find these superstar from a pacific island background in the team. They are there to keep them wanting to play for NZ and not one of the other Pacific Islands team. Those who do not make it go aand represent the pacific islands nations.

          But NZ have the cream of the crop to choose from. Luckily for Samoa guys like Brain Lima played for Samoa which made some of the kids wanting to play for Samoa and NZ.

          So its a very clever ploy and taking credit for something that they did not do. Its the other way around they could hide it easily because of most people lack of understanding of the cultures of the Pacific Islands.

          • December 3rd 2012 @ 5:53pm
            Ra said | December 3rd 2012 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

            Greg you have a narrow eurocentric view of the big picture relationship between Aotearoa NZ and the people of the Pasifika Nations. If we stay in the now and look at our present relationship with the Island Nations, we could easily reach that popular misconception you offered which our relations in northern hemisphere countries love to use to try to divide and continue their governance of us down here in their far reaching colonies.

            Get rid of that view point if you do not want to give the four “home nations” more power than they need.
            You are not giving a full and proper picture either Neuen.

            Let me state the obvious and mention the blood relationships between our countries as polynesian people. When we spent time together, we recognise our cultural and linguistic similarities that pre-date European arrival.
            We can talk about the dependent state arrangement of Samoa the British government handed down to the NZ Government, but there are strong elements of colonial governance that most of us today are not proud of.

            NZ Government looked to the Pasifika for cheap labour in the 1960s and 1970s industrial boom era, then tried to drive them back out again at the time of collapse in the 1980s.
            Professional rugby gave the Island Nations the big break in rugby, and in the 1990s Ron Don era a cry exuded from some in Kiwi rugby circles at the “browning of the All Blacks”.

            Players were given the option of playing for NZ or playing for their Island Homes. There are lots of reasons why they opted either way, and both countries are the richer for decisions made.
            Our countries were privillaged to have had great players like Michael Jones, Pat Lam, Inga Tuigamala and many others in our representative colours.

            NZ rugby did not do a lot for Island rugby for a long time. Their rankings placed them up against the Maori All Blacks. Great from a cultural view point, but in latter years were cries of wanting more respect as sovereign nations to play their top teams against the top teams of other sovereign nations.

            Pay tribute to the present NZRU president Bryan Williams for the upward trend of support for Island rugby. The great BG Williams coached Auckland during their heydays and I remember him going back to give something back to his Island Nations.

            Williams went back to share his vast experience as a world class All Blacks rugby great with his Samoan people, and his status as a lawyer and former player to support the plea to the NZRU to do more to support Island rugby.

            The NZRU has answered that plea and has been able to negotiate the political sludge from Northern Hemisphere knockers and from knockers back home over the past 20 years to support rugby development in the Island Nations.

            We are both richer for that continued close relationship as rugby nations with our Pasifika neighbours.

            We are aware of how Mother England cut us adrift to join the ECC back in the late 1960s-early 1970s, and when any of the Island Nations teams beat any other international rugby side in the world, like the latest wins over the Welsh and the Scots on the northern hemisphere tours, then as a nation, we all rejoice too – except when they beat us, such is our relationship with our close Pasifika neighbours and cousins.

            • December 3rd 2012 @ 6:05pm
              Greg said | December 3rd 2012 @ 6:05pm | ! Report

              Ra, of course, being from South Auckland i can appreciate more than most what pacific islanders have done for our country and rugby teams, but i do get frustrated when people pretend it is not a two way street. If it werent for NZ, Samoa, Fiji etc may well be just another island backwater no one (especially the rugby world) has ever heard of.
              Neaun, im not even going to respond to your laughable post, but i will say that we were the best rugby nation on earth before the polynesian influence, just as we are with it. If your born and raised in NZ, you are a kiwi. If you have learnt all your rugby skills in NZ after benefiting from our systems and coaches, you should play for NZ. This is what 17 players (New Zealanders with varying amounts of Samoan blood) did when they played for Samoa in the RWC. And im all for it, love seeing them smash over the home nations.

              • December 6th 2012 @ 11:34pm
                Ra said | December 6th 2012 @ 11:34pm | ! Report

                Agreed Greg, it IS a two way street. It has to be that way. Im not going to get in to the who owes what to whom and how much and why debate though.
                We got to get past that low level of debate. We were arguing those thing in the ’70s & ’80s. We’ve agreed as nations that we have to find ways forward not look back at what’s stoppig us. Ands a major power, I get nothin from belittling ohers less fortunate than ourselves – Aussies excepted.
                Im proud of the NZRU for how it supports Pasifika rugby development. Im rapt to see , Pasifika nations, playing fantastic rugby in the super rugby competition, and then to come together on a rugby field and smash Deano’s Wallabies and other national sides.
                And im proud to be here in Aussie and talk positivelyabout our contributions fo our close neighbours.
                In return our own game has been enriched.
                i wold lke to think that us Kiwis understand that our game is very strong and we have the talent and depth to continue to be viable at the top part of world rugby for quite some time to come and we do have resources to share with our close historical Poynesian neighbours.
                I feel that this may not change things for you initially Greg, probably because you live in the biggest Polynesian capital in the world

    • Roar Guru

      December 1st 2012 @ 6:12am
      sheek said | December 1st 2012 @ 6:12am | ! Report

      Billy Bob,

      Putting the concept of origin aside, the combined Pacific Islands team was given a go several years ago now & the islands themselves disbanded the idea.

      While it might work for the West Indies in cricket, it seems too far a water to bridge for Fiji, Samoa & Tonga in rugby.

      The thrust of Klestical’s article is true – self-interest is rampant in the IRB. But it’s no different in FIFA, whereby Europe & South America jealousy guard their turf. Or ICC, where previously England & Australia, but now India, sets the agenda for everyone else.

      Breaking down these vested self-interests is easier said than done.

      • Columnist

        December 1st 2012 @ 7:17am
        Geoff Parkes said | December 1st 2012 @ 7:17am | ! Report

        Sheek, agree about the Pacific Islands team, the idea just smacks of convenience and arrogance from where we sit, but is logistically and (more important) culturally, a no-goer.

        Klestical, I hear where you’re coming from but please – I get very nervous whenever I see or hear Mark Arbib’s name mentioned as a some form of saviour for Australian Rugby.

        • December 1st 2012 @ 1:54pm
          klestical said | December 1st 2012 @ 1:54pm | ! Report

          Haha allanthus – it did just occur to me that mr ‘faceless men’ is pushing a reform into ARU governance.

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