Something stinks in the boardroom

I doubt we have heard the last of this disingenuous conduct. It makes a mockery of the pronouncements of unity expressed when the NZRU made its stand and there will undoubtedly be some very terse moments at the next gathering of Trans Tasman rugby bosses.

Article By: Tony, Johnson

skysport.co.nz, Wednesday, 21 December 2011 9:24 a.m.

There is something quite smelly about the re-election of Bernard Lapasset as chairman of the International Rugby Board, and it’s not the Frenchman's garlic breath.

Lapasset has managed to hang onto his role in the face of a strong challenge from former Lions skipper Bill Beaumont.

Media coverage here in New Zealand has predictably focussed on the fact that the NZRU/Steve Tew did not “get their man”, having openly backed Beaumont in the expectation that he would drive a better deal for this country in terms of revenue sharing, a greater split of the World Cup riches, and compensation for the loss of revenue suffered due to the lack of inbound tours during World Cup years.

What everyone seems to have missed is the fact that Lapasset got the job almost entirely thanks to the duplicity of New Zealands SANZAR partners.

When Tew hit the headlines with his comments over the above matters during the World Cup, his ARU counterpart John O’Neil was very quick to chime in, in a way that was a bit reminiscent of John Lennon after Paul McCartney got in first and announced he was quitting the Beatles - not miffed because they were breaking up, but because HE wanted to say it.

O’Neil gave every indication that Australia would stand alongside New Zealand in pushing for change when the IRB met to decide its new leader, while South Africa signalled, albeit late in the piece and rather more quietly, that it was in agreement with its Southern Hemisphere partners.

But the word from the meeting, backed by a simple count of the votes, suggests both have done a complete about face, and were in fact crucial to Lapasset getting re-elected.

It is not hard to put two and two together and work out what was in it for South Africa’s Oregan Hoskins. By voting for the Frenchman, when his country might have benefited more from having Beaumont in the chair, Hoskins has made a personal gain. His reward for this is the new IRB vice chairmanship ahead of Beaumont, courtesy of Lapasset’s casting vote after a 13-13 deadlock.

Hoskins conduct is hardly surprising. He is a populist and an opportunist of the highest order, who appears to care for his own position, South Africa, and then SANZAR in that order.

But it is the conduct of John O’Neill that will have NZRU officials fuming behind the scenes.

Paul Rees of the Guardian, the man who appears to have clearly the best grasp on rugby politics of any journalist, reports that Australia’s CEO also voted for Lapasset. If this is true, then for all his posturing during the RWC over the matter, O’Neil has clearly been persuaded to change his mind, and whether it is Australia, he alone, or both who will benefit most from this only time will tell.

I doubt we have heard the last of this disingenuous conduct. It makes a mockery of the pronouncements of unity expressed when the NZRU made its stand and there will undoubtedly be some very terse moments at the next gathering of Trans Tasman rugby bosses.

In the meantime, Bernard Lapasset knows he has survived by the skin of a frogs leg, and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that New Zealand, backed by the Home Unions, will end up securing the better deal they are seeking anyway - no thanks to our so called allies south of the equator.