Bill Beaumont has been re-elected as World Rugby’s chairman for another four years after overcoming Agustín Pichot in a closely fought election. The former England captain won a margin of five votes, defeating the Argentinian by 28 to 23.
Beaumont, who was first elected chairman in 2016, was the favourite for victory but Pichot, formerly his vice-chairman, mounted a late challenge and gathered considerable momentum. Sources close to Pichot believed the vote was as close as 24-23 in Beaumont’s favour with Japan and Rugby Africa yet to declare their intentions, but both have backed the incumbent.
Beaumont, 68, was considered the safe choice against the revolutionary Pichot, who had pledged wide scale reform. Pichot had the backing of the Sanzaar nations, who were disgruntled that the proposed Nations Championship failed to materialise last year, while Beaumont was backed by the Six Nations, whose votes amounted to 18 in a weighted electoral system. Thanks to additional support from Rugby Europe, Canada, Samoa, Fiji and the split North American vote, Beaumont has clinched victory.
There had been fears from within Beaumont's camp that the controversy surrounding the key support of Fiji's Francis Kean, a convicted killer who is facing fresh allegations of homophobia, would derail his bid. Beaumont, however, backed by his new vice-chairman, France's Bernard Laporte, can now set about shaping rugby's future in the post-pandemic world.
Voting in the election closed on Thursday but the result was initially not due to be announced until the World Rugby council meeting on May 12th. After a clear winner was determined without the need for a second round of voting, both candidates agreed for the result to be announced on Saturday.
Beaumont said: "I am honoured to accept the mandate of the World Rugby Council to serve as the international federation's chairman once again and would like to thank my union and region colleagues, members of the global rugby family and, of course, my family for their full support.
“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.”