29 Jul 2008

Rugby's top body undemocratic, unrepresentative, says report

4:46 pm on 29 July 2008

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 Quentin Smith, chairman of English club Sale, it 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 rapidly into new regions, rugby's support has remained focused in its traditional homelands, it says.

It noted that 97% of the 33 million people who watched last year's World Cup final between South Africa and England came from the eight founding countries - England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

"There are 115 members of the International Rugby Board," the report says, "but rugby is evidently not particularly popular in most of them."

It recommends an overhaul of the board's structure, a five-year plan for the sport's development, programmes with specific targets in growth regions, the staging of the 2015 World Cup in one of those regions, and the inclusion of rugby sevens at the 2016 Olympics.