By Steffan Thomas
David Moffett has slammed the current state of World Rugby labelling the game “as boring as bat shit,” a “dog’s dinner” and believes private equity will seize control of the global game from the national unions.
Moffett was one of world rugby’s most experienced administrators having been chief executive at the WRU, NZRU, the NRL and head of Sport England.
He was the man who cobbled together the regional structure in Wales in 2003, left in 2005, came back briefly in 2014, and then co-wrote a new set of rules for the game last year.
Having now retired he is appalled at the direction the game is heading on the field, citing the recent British & Irish Lions Test series against South Africa as an example of how unattractive the game has become.
The 74-year-old was one of the driving forces behind the game going professional in 1995 and believes the second great revolution since the game went open is underway with private equity companies such as Silver Lake and CVC buying substantial shares in the game.
And Moffett has urged them to change the way the game is played on the pitch.
“Rugby union is boring as bat shit,” he said.
“I once called Rugby League the five-tackle kick sport and I did It because Phil Gould had called Super Rugby basketball on grass.
“I said I prefer that than five tackle kick, but now I define rugby union as kick and defend.
“Unless you have the All Blacks running riot against weaker sides, we hardly see any running rugby. What the game needs is for the French to play like the French, the Welsh to play like the Welsh, not everybody to play the same stuff.
“A consortium like CVC or Silver Lake needs to ask what’s wrong with the game?
“Why aren’t we getting a return from our investment? Well, they need to have a look at how the game is played.
“Have a look at the way in which the coaches have too much influence over World Rugby, so they get a million different interpretations. They should get rid of all the interpretations and apply the letter of the law.
“Make a few tweaks and we get a good game again.”
Professional rugby in the Northern Hemisphere has come under criticism of late from the likes of All Blacks legend Sean Fitzpatrick, due to the fact the game’s top international players are rarely available to play in their domestic competitions.
This is certainly the case in the new United Rugby Championship where the top Welsh and Irish internationals will rarely figure.
Moffett added: “I think CVC and private equity in general is a godsend for the Welsh regions. They are likely to bypass the WRU and make decisions themselves.
“You’ve got to separate professional rugby from the community game. World Rugby won’t do that because they fear losing control.
“I think the WRU will eventually lose control of the pro game. CVC are putting serious money into the pro game.
“They aren’t going to sit back and let a bunch of bloody cigar-smoking, gin-swigging administrators to control the game. The best Welsh players should be playing for their pro sides every game providing they are fit.
NZ Rugby has been offered $465 million from US firm Silver Lake for a 15 per cent share of commercial rights, which are valued at $3.1 billion. All the details here 👇 https://t.co/y59ByUrz2d
— Liam Napier (@liamnapiernz) February 3, 2021
“World Rugby thinks they are like FIFA, but they aren’t. For all their faults FIFA run the biggest game in the world by a distance.
“We are now at the second phase of professional rugby and as night follows day, I cannot see how World Rugby can organise themselves to accommodate this new form of investment in the game because they will not want to lose control.
“So, I think control will get taken away from them.”
But Moffett has issued a warning to the game, with the New Zealand-based businessman insisting that private equity is not the answer to all rugby’s problems.
“I think a game run by private equity is going to have unintended consequences, like the fans are going to suffer because they’ll have to pay a shit-load more money to go to games, buy merchandise, and to watch it on streaming services that an organisation like Silver Lake owns.
“These people do it for a return. Look at what CVC did with Formula 1 as soon as they made enough money, they sold it. That’s what could happen here.
“If they were able to direct some of the money they earn down to the grass roots and community game, then I’d be all right with it as long as they understand they don’t get these players without a strong community game.
Private equity firm CVC has acquired a 14.3% stake in Six Nations Rugby, meaning Welsh rugby will benefit from £51m over five years.
— BBC Sport Wales (@BBCSportWales) March 12, 2021
“Also, there’s too much international rugby being played.
“Where does a World Cup fit in if they are playing each other all the time? The current amount of Test rugby devalues a World Cup.
“It’s quite conceivable the World Cup would become a casualty of this new era.”