Governance recommendations approved by the World Rugby Council

by Oceania Rugby

Reclassification of unions and widened representation on decision-making structures as World Rugby moves to implement governance review recommendations.

The reclassification of unions, implementation of an enhanced integrity code and wider representation on committee structures are at the heart of the package of transformational governance recommendations approved by the World Rugby Council today.

Approval of the recommendations from the independent-led governance review group, chaired by British Olympic Committee Chair and Minister in charge of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Sir Hugh Robertson, follows an extensive and fully-consultative process and builds on the interim recommendations approved by the Council and published in January.

The review aimed to strengthen the effectiveness, agility and representative nature of the international federation’s governance structures to further reflect and serve the universality and diversity of rugby and support robust decision-making processes for the betterment of the global game.

New merit-based classification of unions to replace the tier structure

In a significant change to the structure of the sport, the classification of unions will be reshaped to provide a transparent and simpler means of differentiating between unions and provide the opportunity for unions to advance via an inclusive clear pathway.

Replacing the previous tiered structure which has served the game for 20 years, the new system will acknowledge and provide differentiation based on performance, development and financial criteria, with five categories - High Performance, Performance, Development, Growth and Membership.

Classification will take place on a four yearly basis to align with Rugby World Cup cycles, with further detail to follow, and a revised and refined Union Development Questionnaire (UDQ) administered on a bi-annual basis to gather the necessary data. Unions will be reassessed at the mid-point in each cycle but cannot move category within a given cycle.

Under the new system, all High Performance unions who do not currently have the maximum number of three votes on Council will be eligible for an additional vote. This will ensure a stronger voice on the decision-making body, while strengthening the aspirational pathway to Council representation for those not currently there.

Greater female, independence, player and nation/region representation within committees

The review’s findings, which build on the interim recommendations published in January, will also see progressive changes to World Rugby’s committees, including:

  • Further player, regional and independent representation on all committee structures from the beginning of the next cycle
  • Female representation increasing from 30 per cent to at least 40 per cent on all World Rugby committees in line with the new ‘A global sport for all – true to its values’ Strategic Plan
  • A skills matrix to be developed for all committees to ensure subject area expertise across all decision-making structures

Council also noted the commitment to furthering female, independent, nation/region and player representation on the international federation’s Executive Committee with a composition recommendation to be considered in November following further stakeholder consultation.

New Integrity Code established

A new Integrity Code, which will be published shortly on the World Rugby website, will also be introduced. It builds on the existing Code of Conduct and includes the standards and vetting process for officials, specifically:

  • When an official is nominated to take up a position within World Rugby’s governance structure, that person will need to meet the appropriate standards, as set out in the Code, at the time of nomination and continue to meet those standards during their time in office
  • Appointment of an independent Ethics Officer to oversee the implementation of the Code and the vetting procedure. The individual will be a legal practitioner of at least seven years standing. There will also be an Integrity Check Provider to assist with the vetting process.

The approved recommendations relating to the classification of unions and the Integrity Code will be implemented immediately, while structural changes to the committee structures will be adopted for the next committee cycle in 2024 or as soon as practically possible.

The independent-led Governance Working Group comprised of independent experts, union and regional representatives and player representation from emerging and established rugby nations, with a broad range of experience and expertise. 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 providing comments and recommendations on World Rugby governance.

Sir Hugh Robertson, World Rugby Governance Working Group Chair, British Olympic Committee Chairman and former UK Olympics and Sports Minister, said: “‘The governance review process has brought together input from over 70 representative bodies and involved a year’s work by a 14 member governance group drawn from around the world. It has been a collaborative and inclusive process and I believe that the final report represents a significant improvement to the governance of the world game.”

World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont added: “When I was re-elected as World Rugby Chairman, I made clear reforming and strengthening World Rugby’s governance structures was a key priority. Implementing the Governance Working Group’s clear and progressive blueprint is an important step and I thank Sir Hugh Robertson for independently and expertly leading the review and the working group members for their excellent commitment. The actions will ensure World Rugby further reflects the universality and diversity of sport and has the best possible structure and ways of working.”

World Rugby Vice-Chairman, Bernard Laporte added: “Implementing the report’s final recommendations will enable World Rugby to continue to strengthen its governance processes and, as the sport continues to grow globally, ensure all stakeholders are represented at the highest level. Throughout the independent review process, unions, regions and player representatives have been closely involved and the recommendations will support our decision making in the years to come reflecting the global rugby community.”

Governance Working Group Members

  • Independents: Sir Hugh Robertson (Chair), Angela Ruggiero, General Sir Peter Cosgrove
  • Northern Unions: Bernard Laporte – FFR President, Julie Paterson – WRU Council Member
  • Southern Unions: Mark Alexander – SARU President, Marcelo Rodriguez – UAR President
  • Regions: Cristina Flores – Rugby Americas North, Cathy Wong – Oceania Rugby
  • Emerging Rugby Nations: Alin Petrache – FRR President
  • Player Representative: Omar Hassanein – IRP CEO, Safi Ndiaye – France Women’s Team International Player