28 Feb

Blueprint for Failure
by Paul Waite
28 Feb 2004

This week we heard, to our astonishment, that the NZRFU were setting off to their IRB meeting lugging with them a set of Plans to revamp the way World Rugby is administered.

Apparently, these Plans are based, no less, on the recipe which has successfully seen the decline of New Zealand Rugby as a world power over the past 7-8 years.

Yes, the very same system which has brought us a succession of incompetent All Black coaches, no World Cup success, and the debacle of the loss of the 2003 Rugby World Cup sub-hosting is going to be put forward as the saviour of World Rugby.

For those foreign readers not familiar with the set-up which has been so (not) successful here, it involves jettisoning the tiresome encumbrance of having a board made up of stakeholders in the game from the lower levels and instead appointing a small group of business-oriented bods who are elected and then wield ultimate power without having to refer to anyone else.

The NZRFU board used to be made up from representatives of the New Zealand provinces. This resulted in a lot of hot air and slower decision-making, quite true, however for slower decision-making you can also read lively and lengthy debate which aired all the topics relevant to the provincial and general health of the game.

There are pros and cons to both systems of course. Large and representaive boards are subject to provincialism and stick-in-the-mudism and are often referred to as suffering from hardening of the arteries – the Old Farts Syndrome.

The streamlined boards can, for their part, do a lot of damage to the game in a very short time and can fail to look after the grass-roots due to their detachment from it and lack of genuine accountability. They might be effectively sacked at re-election, but by then it can often be far too late. On the other hand they can, in theory, do a lot of good for the game in a short time too but in practice this rarely seems to happen.

Having seen both in action I can say I’m a fervent supporter of the representative approach. Give me a board of mud-in-your-eye staunch provincial representatives every time over a small team of accountant/lawyer/bizzo types who don’t seem to look after the lower echelons of the game enough.

As for the IRB, my advice them them is to pat the NZRFU on the head and then tell them to put this pointy hat on, and go and sit quietly in the corner.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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