Caution about election promises from World Rugby Chairman
Agustín Pichot sees one major difference between Sir Bill Beaumont and himself, the two candidates standing to be chairman of World Rugby at next month’s election.
Both sides presented manifestos over the last week presenting their respective plans for the sport, with common themes of global alignment and supporting emerging nations.
“I’m the one that fought the last four years, that’s the difference,” Pichot told the Samoa Observer.
The former Argentina halfback has been viewed as a revolutionary figure over the last four years he has spent as World Rugby’s vice-chairman to the incumbent chair Beaumont.
Indeed should Pichot be elected to the top job on May 12th, he will be the first World Rugby chairman to come from outside of Europe’s Six Nations unions.
But although he is a champion for emerging nation, he refuses to make any specific promises of action in exchange for the votes he will require from the World Rugby Council members, including Samoa.
“I think exactly the same of Samoa that I think of U.S.A., what I think of Uruguay, what I think of Namibia, my mindset is exactly the same,” Pichot said.
On the other hand, Sir Bill Beaumont promised a review of the international eligibility laws, signalling an intention to allow international players no longer required by their initial teams to switch; a potential boost for the Pacific Island unions.
“I will not trade something that I cannot guarantee,” Pichot said.
“Two thirds of the Council has to vote for that, there has to be a big discussion of the whole group about it. Not myself or Bill can guarantee that happening.
“I don’t like making promises in the campaign that I can not fulfil.”
Pichot said he is open to that sort of change, and has ongoing discussions about the issue with Pacific Rugby Players Welfare head Daniel Leo, and Hale T-Pole who runs the Pacific Rugby Players association.
“I understand generally the view of teams that wanna have their best players they can to play for their teams, regardless of if they’ve been playing for the All Blacks before or England,” he said.
And he would be happy to open up the eligibility laws in such a manner so long as the positives outweighed the negatives for the whole of rugby.
“It’s not only about looking for how it impacts Samoa positively, but also how it impacts other countries in the world,” Pichot said.
“You have to be global. You have to understand what is best for the game, and if it’s best for the game, I will push it.”
Pichot is pretty sure more democratic governance is best for the game, given his long-term goal of equal votes for all unions on the World Rugby Council.
Tier 1 nations like England, New Zealand and Argentina each get three votes, while Samoa and other emerging nations have just the one.
Pichot thinks equal council representation would only be fair for those who have given a lot to the rugby world, like Samoa.
“People that gain the respect, If you play [a given] amount of Rugby World Cups, and you’ve been in the history of the game, why not have votes,” he said.
The 45-year-old also wants to help Samoa and other emerging nations by making World Rugby more creative in how it invests in high-performance teams like the Manu:
“It’s a different angle that we’ve never explored, and I think we have to explore it because at the end of the day, every time Samoa plays we want the best players playing there,” Pichot said.
He wants to utilise revenue sharing to ensure more money goes to the players when they play for their countries, in order to limit the shortfall between international match fees and the club wages they give up.
“The players would be thinking, I can’t, I have to play for the guys that pay for my salary. I would love to play for Samoa but I would take a risk, and also I’m earning a lot of money and they can’t afford that,” Pichot said.