World Rugby continues to move towards progressive governance reform after its Council endorsed a package of interim recommendations by the independent-led Governance Working Group.

A key commitment of World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont and Vice-Chairman Bernard Laporte’s election mandate was the wide-ranging governance review. Its core objective is to strengthen the effectiveness and agility of the international federation’s governance structures to further reflect and serve the universality and diversity of a growing sport and support robust and decision-making processes for a growing global game.

Chaired by British Olympic Committee Chairman and former UK Olympics and Sports Minister, Sir Hugh Robertson, the Working Group comprises independent experts, union and regional representatives and player representation from emerging and established rugby nations, with a broad range of experience and expertise.

Within the interim report, seven recommendations have been published that will underpin meaningful reform, while the Working Group has also identified four focus areas for further consideration during the second phase.

The recommendations are:

  • The establishment of an ethics and conduct charter for elected officials
  • The introduction of a fit and proper person’s test for Council, EXCO and all standing committees under its jurisdiction
  • Robust conflict of interest management process which protects the integrity and effectiveness of decision-making
  • A target of at least 40 per cent female representation on committees with the promotion of women leaders in the sport
  • Player representation throughout all the committee structures, including EXCO, to ensure player-centric decision-making
  • A continued focus on diversity, skill set, independence, capability and geographical representation when forming committees.
  • Council meetings to continue to occur twice a year – one meeting in person and one remote

In a truly inclusive process, unions, regions and International Rugby Players (IRP) were invited to make submissions to the Governance Working Group with 64 unions, six regions and IRP completing a questionnaire and providing comments and recommendations on World Rugby governance.

With its initial findings endorsed, the Governance Working Group continues to review and analyse the effectiveness and key accountabilities of the present governance model with areas of focus including:

  • The election and composition of EXCO, including consideration of membership criteria and the balance of independence
  • Committee composition, structure and reporting flows
  • Definition and classification of unions
  • Furthering diversity and inclusion strategies

A further update will be made to the World Rugby Council at its Annual Meeting in May 2021.

Beaumont said: “I welcome the interim report of the Governance Working Group and its seven initial recommendations, and would like to thank the independent Chair Sir Hugh Robertson for his excellent leadership in progressing important work which will provide a clear and comprehensive pathway for progressive reform of governance within World Rugby for the betterment of all.

“We are undertaking this important and necessary process with the ambition of implementing and living the best-possible standards of good governance, furthering the effectiveness and diversity of our structures, ensuring they reflect the values and universality of the game.

“Our performance is best measured by actions, not just words. We are heading in a very encouraging direction – that enables us to best achieve our purpose of growing the sport worldwide by making it more relevant and accessible. All of the governance practices, processes and procedures we implement must be implemented meaningfully with that purpose in mind.

“This is and will continue to be an independent-led process and I would like to thank the unions, regions and International Rugby Players (IRP) for their feedback and submissions.”

Laporte added: “One of our major commitments was to commission a thorough review of our governance that would find the best-possible structure and ways of working as well as ensuring wider diversity within the leadership of the game. These outcomes are just the first step.

“Sir Hugh Robertson and all the members of the working group will continue their mission, to closely review the current governance model in light of our new strategic plan, which will be published shortly.

“World Rugby must lead positive governance change in our sport, and we are encouraged with these first recommendations and motivated by the next stage of the review process, which will ensure that we can meet current and future challenges.”

Sir Hugh Robertson added: “I am delighted that the World Rugby Council have given their full endorsement to the interim package of recommendations made by a very engaged and progressive working group.

“These actions will strengthen diversity and inclusion and, for the first time, introduce an independent ethics structure. These were all proposals which received widespread support across the global game.

“We are at half-time. In the second half, we will consider the structure of the Executive Committee and the definition and classification of a diverse and growing family of national member unions. I look to continuing this positive momentum with the working group and reporting back to the Council in due course.”

 The process builds on solid foundations set by the previous review in 2015, which delivered transformational wider union representation and gender inclusion on the international federation’s highest decision-making body, the Council.

The recommendations also follow recently announced interim committees, which feature broader geographic, female, independent, big business and player representation across every committee with three committees chaired by women.