World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has said the governing body will reform the bidding process for future World Cups following the controversy surrounding the 2023 decision.
France last month landed the rights to the 2023 World Cup, against a recommendation made by the Rugby World Cup Limited Board in October. The decision attracted widespread criticism.
South Africa appeared set to land the 2023 World Cup after the RWCL Board unanimously recommended the country’s bid over that of proposals from France and Ireland. The process moved to a vote on November 15 by the World Rugby Council which comprised a total of 39 votes, with a simple majority required to confirm South Africa as host.
The first round of voting saw France gain 18 votes, to 13 for South Africa and eight for Ireland. The second round saw France clinch the World Cup with 24 votes to South Africa’s 15. Gosper said it is highly likely that the recommendation policy will be scrapped, while the system of secret ballots and the two-week gap between the announcement of the independent evaluation and the vote taken by the Council will also be assessed.
Current World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont and his deputy, Agustin Pichot, came to power in May 2016 and Gosper (pictured) said they were obliged to follow through with the bidding system already in place. “There are parts of the process that we will probably change next,” Gosper said, according to UK newspaper The Telegraph.
“I guess the hardest part of the review and the most contentious part of the review was actually providing a recommendation. To be fair on Bill and Gus, when they arrived on the scene, they found that and they weren’t happy with that. But because we had embarked on a system, there were certain elements that certain countries were really keen that we were not to change. In the end we felt that was probably the right route to take. To change course halfway through the process was going to be uncomfortable for all sorts of reasons.”
Gosper defended the system in place for the 2023 World Cup, stating it had resulted in “three extraordinary candidates and some real certainty financially,” but admitted the Council’s decision to reject the board’s recommendation had undermined it.
“It has been by far the best system ever run but unfortunately it has been a little bit overshadowed by the contradiction, or the perceived contradiction, by the Rugby World Cup Board – which looks at it in terms of the execution of the tournament – and the Council which looks at it in terms of the interests of the unions they are representing,” Gosper said.
“So that will be part of the review and I would be surprised if we move to a recommendation again. I know we have been criticised a few times for having a secret ballot. We took specific advice on that and there are two sides to the coin. You can argue both ways but on balance the advice the secret ballot allows people to vote the right way rather than being pressured. If the fors and against were equal, from a perception point of view an open vote sounds transparent and maybe we should consider that.”
Gosper also stressed that no evidence was found that France had sought to influence the vote by striking deals with individual nations, adding that the French Rugby Federation would not be permitted to offer games to locations outside France as part of any such deals.
“We have not seen any evidence of any deals that were done,” Gosper said. “At the end of the day, the French bid had much higher possibility for money to come back into the regions and the unions.”