Confronting and managing an unprecedented financial crisis. Uniting the northern and southern hemispheres on a global calendar. Maintain the growth of women's games and sevens.
All the time, not even knowing exactly when rugby might return after the coronavirus outbreak.
Bill Beaumont has a lot of work on his hands after being re-elected as president of World Rugby – the most powerful position in the sport.
"It's time to roll up our sleeves," said Beaumont on Sunday, as he outlined his hopes, plans and concerns in his second four-year term at the helm of the global body after defeating Agustin Pichot in the election.
Beaumont, a popular and avuncular figure who was captain of England in the 1980s, discussed a number of issues and challenges faced by rugby in the short and medium term. He freely acknowledged, however, that rugby remains at the mercy of the coronavirus.
Like almost all other sports, rugby has been closed since mid-March because of the outbreak. The nature of the game – there is arguably more contact in rugby than in any other sport – makes it even more difficult to know when it will be ready to continue.
The Six Nations of the northern hemisphere has not yet ended, the rugby championship in the southern hemisphere has not yet started and international games during the summer seem to be in ruins.
Everyone makes money from a sport so dependent on the revenues of the international game. That doesn't even count the club's game. New Zealand predicts a 70% drop in revenue, Australians are facing a black hole of more than $ 70 million and English rugby could suffer an even greater financial impact. World Rugby delivered an aid fund of approximately $ 100 million to help unions by the end of 2020, but Beaumont accepts that "it's probably not enough".
"There is no magic money tree," said Beaumont. "If we were not very lucky to have a very successful Rugby World Cup in Japan, we would be facing a much darker outlook than we currently have."
Beaumont hopes that the cash injection will cover unions that want to repeat the games postponed in late 2020, although this is not guaranteed and could conflict with club games. "We can change the international windows," said Beaumont, when asked if international matches could be reorganized for Christmas Day ", but he must be in consultation with interested parties – and it is the clubs in Europe in the north – for us to do have a consensus of opinion for the entire game, keeping in mind the pressure on clubs and provinces. ”
Beaumont says there is "an appetite" to revive the League of Nations proposal that was abandoned less than a year ago, because there was no consensus among the main unions on issues like the format and when it would happen. It is a competition, potentially backed by $ 7.5 billion in private finance over 12 years, that would reinvigorate the sport and attract global interest. But problems persist as to which countries would be involved and whether they would feature aspects like promotion and demotion.
"We are at a crossroads for the game," said Beaumont. "And the only thing that happened is that there is a real desire from the north and the south to bring our game together. And one thing I'm good at is bringing people together."
He said he would push for the global league to be played in the international windows of July and November – "so that the north goes south in a month and the south goes north in the next month – which would leave the Six Nations as one" independent competition "played in February and March, as usual.
Beaumont added that the global league may not necessarily include all countries in the Six Nations and that there may be "subsidiary competition involving all emerging nations".
Beaumont questioned whether the state of the game was "suitable for modern purposes" because there was "little precious space for smaller, skilled players".
"We cannot just say that it is the domain of great players," said Beaumont of a sport that he claimed was played in 98% of the world. Therefore, other changes can be brought about to achieve a greater balance in this regard. Beaumont added that there were no discussions about rule changes in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Beaumont insisted that his plans to cultivate women's rugby, which also involve global competition with promotion and demotion, will not be hampered by the pandemic.
"I am challenging the World Rugby executive team and saying that we need to find the money for that," he said. "It is a commitment on our part and I hope that we can get things up and running as soon as possible."
Beaumont said there was a high demand among the top players, especially with the Olympic Games being postponed to 2021 – the year of the next Women's World Cup in New Zealand. He added, however, that there was no reason for delays in changing the structure of the women's game.
Beaumont plans to make major changes to the eligibility rules, in particular by giving players born in the Pacific islands the chance to appear in their home country, even if they have already played on other international teams like New Zealand or England.
That would mean a revision of "Regulation 8" and he wants it to happen immediately. Beaumont said this would increase the number of players available to the Pacific islands and "would undoubtedly improve the competitiveness of a Rugby World Cup".
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