Dubai: Asian rugby will have a greater say on the international stage if former Argentine captain Agustin Pichot wins the hot seat at next month’s world body elections.
Pichot, a standing vice-chairman who enjoys an overwhelming support from the Asian countries, is up against England’s Sir Bill Beaumont in general elections to lead the world rugby’s governing body. Voting, which is conducted by private ballot, will start on Monday [April 27] and the result will be announced only on May 12 along with the vote for vice-chairman and Executive Committee.
The member unions of Asia Rugby have overwhelmingly voted to support Pichot’s bid (24 out of 28 votes) to chair World Rugby. The voting system currently works in such a way that 30 of the 51 votes are allocated to the 10, Tier-One unions within the Six Nations and Rugby Championship tournaments. Two votes go to each to the six regional associations, which includes Asia, plus Japan gets two votes and there is one vote for each for the seven unions, namely Canada, United States, Uruguay, Georgia, Romania, Samoa and Fiji.
As one of six regional associations within the global rugby pyramid, Asia gets just two votes at World Rugby elections – something that is drastically unfair according to UAE’s Qais Al Dhalai, Asia Rugby president.
“It is unfortunate that a sport which aspires to be a global game allows Asia’s 28 unions to count for only two of the total of 51 votes on the World Rugby governance and voting system,” Al Dhalai told Gulf News.
The mere fact that 28 unions get just two votes doesn’t reflect that rugby is a global sport or that it’s transparent or that it has a sound governance and structure. Should it not be similar to World Athletics or to football’s Fifa ?
“This must change now, if rugby is to truly become a global sport. Asia hosted the most successful 2019 Rugby World Cup [in Japan] and we have three of the most popular stops on the World Rugby Sevens [Dubai, Singapore and Hong Kong]. Then how come this inequality in voting rights?” he questioned.
“The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has always been clear in its chapter that each nation should get at least one vote. Then how come this discrepancy with the governing body of rugby? Pichot has promised to right this wrong and change our sport,” Al Dhalai insisted.
Pichot, who turns 46 on August 22, is a retired Argentine rugby union player, formerly captain of the national team while also serving with English club, Bristol for some time. In addition, he has played for French sides, Stade Français and Racing Métro.
Of the 28 Asian members, 24 voted in support of Pichot while two voted for Beaumont and the other two abstained. Unlike most regional associations, Asia Rugby allowed individual unions to submit their choices on leadership of World Rugby. Asia’s governing body has mandated Terrence Khoo [President of Singapore Rugby Union] to cast the two votes on its behalf.
“The mere fact that 28 unions get just two votes doesn’t reflect that rugby is a global sport or that it’s transparent or that it has a sound governance and structure. Should it not be similar to World Athletics or to football’s Fifa ? 51 bodies means 51 votes, isn’t it?” he asked.
Former England captain and current chairman Beaumont holds the upper hand largely because of the backing he is set to receive from the Six Nations unions - who hold 18 of the 51 votes between them. In addition, Rugby Europe has pledged its support for Beaumont, while Pichot is being championed by the southern hemisphere Sanzaar countries (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and Asia).