As World Rugby continues to press ahead with electing a new chairman, vice-chair and executive members, the Welsh Rugby Union has so far kept elections to its own governing body on hold. Tom Jenkins says it’s time they moved the campaigning online so that future leadership of the game in Wales can become clearer.
If World Rugby can stage an election for its executive committee it does beg the question why the Welsh Rugby Union has held off on hosting the battle for a place on its own council.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic making it impossible for meetings to go ahead as scheduled, World Rugby has confirmed that the schedule of May Council and committee meetings will be held remotely, allowing the elections to take place.
For the Council meeting, accountants PWC have been appointed as independent auditors for the election.
The WRU last month postponed the EGM proposed for 29 March due to the coronavirus crisis, but accepted nominations for the seat on the council vacated by former Wales centre Mark Taylor.
Nigel Davies, Ieuan Evans and John Manders all threw their hats into the ring.
But the vote among the 320 WRU member clubs for the position of national representative on the WRU council, which was due to be concluded by 30 April, was put on hold as it was considered the candidates were unable to properly canvass during the lockdown period.
No new date has been set for the election.
WRU chairman Gareth Davies himself will be up for re-election as a national representative later in the year prior to the AGM, which is usually held in October.
It is possible that the two votes could be run side by side.
Recently appointed national representative Liza Burgess, who made history by becoming the first woman to be voted into office by the WRU clubs at the end of last year, was then promoted to the WRU board.
That leaves one more place to be filled on the board by one of the two other national reps.
That would leave Davies, if re-elected, to fight it out with the winner of the vote between Nigel Davies, Evans and Manders, for that position.
The importance of that battle is underlined by the fact the role of WRU chairman is only available to members of the board.
When Gareth Davies beat David Pickering, chairman for the previous 11 years, in a national representative election in 2014, it meant Pickering not only lost his chairmanship and seat on the board, but also had to stand down from his positions on the then IRB Board and Six Nations Committee.
Gareth Davies not only occupies a seat at the World Rugby council table, but also represents the WRU on the Six Nations Committee as well as the British & Irish Lions.
He is a director of Rugby World Cup Ltd and also chairs the WRU group appointments and remuneration panel.
Under new rules promoted by him, and accepted by the WRU rank and file last year, the chairman cannot sit for more than two three-year terms of office.
The former Wales international’s six years – he took over as chairman as soon as he was voted onto the board – are due to end at the AGM, unless he can get special dispensation to extend his tenure.
If not, the WRU will be seeking a new chairman as well as a new chief executive once Martyn Phillips ends his emergency extension after announcing his departure earlier in the year.
The current WRU chairman is one of seven candidates standing for seven seats on the most powerful board in the global game and the remote election is due to take place on 12 May.
It would have been eight candidates standing for seven places, until the Fijian Rugby Union stood down its chairman, Francis Kean, amid allegations of homophobia and discrimination.
World Rugby also confirmed the nominations for the positions of chairman and vice-chairman, which will be determined at the annual meeting of council next month. All nominations had to be proposed and seconded by a member union or regional asssociation.
Former Argentine scrum half Agustin Pichot is challenging England’s Bill Beaumont for the top job, having been his vice-chairman for the past four years, while Frenchman Bernard Laporte has been proposed for the vice-chairmanship.
Beaumont has been proposed by the French Federation and seconded by the Fiji Rugby Union. Pichot has been nominated and proposed by his own union and second by Rugby Australia and Sudamérica Rugby.
Beaumont or Pichot must achieve a simple majority of the votes held by the members of council present, in line with the electoral process set out under the bye-law, and the vote numbers will be published.
The chairman, vice-chairman and executive committee will be elected for a period of four years commencing immediately after the results are announced by the auditor to council on 12 May. The other board members will also serve for four years.