Bill Beaumont re-elected World Rugby chairman and calls for 'unity' to tackle coronavirus

The 68-year-old defeated Agustin Pichot in the first round of voting by a 28-23 margin to secure a second consecutive four-year term

FILE PHOTO: World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont (R) and World Rugby Vice-Chairman Agustin Pichot attend a news conference after the Rugby World Cup 2019 pool draw at Kyoto State Guest House in Kyoto, Japan May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Issei Kato/File Photo
Powered by automated translation

Bill Beaumont insisted it was "not a time for celebration" after being re-elected World Rugby chairman on Saturday as the Englishman called for unity amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Beaumont, 68, defeated Argentine Agustin Pichot in the first round of voting by a 28-23 margin to secure a second consecutive four-year term.

"Over the last four years we have achieved a lot, but we are at half-time and need to press on in the second half. I now have a clear mandate to work with Bernard to implement progressive, sustainable change," Beaumont said.

"As an organisation, we must lead, be transparent, accountable and continue to serve for all. We must be united in our drive to make this great sport even better, simpler, safer and more accessible.

"We must listen to players, fans, competitions, our unions and regions, and take decisions that are in the best interests of all with our strong values to the fore.

"Now is not the time for celebration. We have work to do. We are tackling Covid-19 and must implement an appropriate return-to-rugby strategy that prioritises player welfare, while optimising any opportunity to return to international rugby this year in full collaboration with club competitions for the good of players, fans and the overall financial health of the sport.

"I am determined to ensure that the spirit of unity and solidarity that has characterised our work in response to an unprecedented global Covid-19 pandemic, is the cornerstone of a new approach that will deliver a stronger, more sustainable game when we emerge with new enthusiasm, a renewed purpose and an exciting future."

Rugby, like most sports, has been on hold as the coronavirus spread across the world, casting doubt on whether the 2020 international calendar could be completed.

Pichot, who had worked alongside Beaumont for the last four years, had promised a radical new approach had he won the election, but fell just short in his quest to usurp Beaumont.

"I would like to thank Gus for his friendship and support over the last four years. While we stood against each other in this campaign, we aligned in many ways, and I have the utmost respect for him," Beaumont said. "Gus is passionate about the sport and his contribution has been significant."

Frenchman Bernard Laporte, who was running unopposed, was elected vice-chairman.

"Congratulations to my friend Sir Bill Beaumont on his re-election," Laporte said. "I would also like to express my best wishes to Agustin Pichot, a legend of Argentinian rugby and a great rugby leader.

"I also want to thank all unions who have expressed their opinion in this important ballot, giving a clear mandate for the governance which Bill and I will undertake on their behalf."

Beaumont's new four-year term will officially begin on May 12 when the results of the vote will be confirmed at World Rugby's annual meeting of council.

Former England and British and Irish Lions lock Beaumont succeeded France's Bernard Lapasset in 2016.

The decision to re-elect Beaumont could be viewed as a blow for Asian Rugby after its president, Qais Al Dhalai, made clear his and his federation's support was firmly behind Pichot.

Al Dhalai was backing Pichot as the man to reform global rugby's governance, which in its current setup heavily favours the sport's powerhouse nations like New Zealand, England, and France.

Because of the way the World Rugby Council is made up, such nations get three votes each, while countries like United States, Fiji and Georgia get one vote apiece. Many smaller unions are grouped together and given two votes between them – as is the case in Asia.

“The governance structure does not seem fair to me, and does not seem fair to many,” Emirati Al Dhalai said. “It was inherited from a long, long time ago.

"For me, as the leader of the region with the biggest potential, the region which staged the most successful World Cup, and will be staging the Olympics, I think this should change. And it should change now.”