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Rugby Report urges overhaul of IRB


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Rugby union’s ruling body is undemocratic and unrepresentative of the sport, according to a report on the state of the game.

The “Putting Rugby First” report decries a voting structure that gives the International Rugby Board’s eight founding members a permanent veto on any proposal and claims that rugby is stuck in a “ghetto” by failing to become a truly global sport.

Co-authored by lawyer Quentin Smith – chairman of English Premiership club Sale – the report cited the decision to award New Zealand the right to host the 2011 World Cup over Japan as an example of how rugby is failing to take advantage of Asian markets.

While soccer and American football have moved into new regions with zeal – soccer’s 2002 World Cup was held in Japan and South Korea, and the NFL is set to repeat last year’s success in holding a regular season game in Europe – rugby’s support has remained focused in its traditional homelands.

The report said that 97 percent of the 33 million people who watched last year’s World Cup final between South Africa and England came from the eight so-called foundation countries – England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

“There are 115 members of the IRB,” the report said, “but rugby is evidently not particularly popular in most of them.”

The report makes six recommendations: an overhaul of the IRB’s structure, corporate best practice applied to the body, a five-year plan for the sport’s development, specific programs with firm targets in growth regions, the 2015 World Cup being staged in one of those regions, and the inclusion of rugby sevens at the 2016 Olympics.

World Cup matches have only been hosted by the eight big nations since its inception in 1987 and the IRB has continually failed in its attempts to get sevens – the shorter and faster version of the 15-man game -included at the Olympics.

Following the success of Twenty20 cricket, the report urged the promotion of sevens as a way of bringing the sport to new audiences.

“Rugby is a special sport, with all the ingredients to be one of the most successful in the world,” the report said.

Sapa-AP – Rugbyweek.com

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