Swapping his boots for suits, Agustin Pichot warned about the critical phase that Rugby is going through. If the sport is unable to find agreement on a global calendar, it has 12 months to save itself from disintegrating.
It was expected that the announcement of a unified schedule will be made serving the competing interests of club and Test rugby following the agreement in San Francisco in January last year. It seems that this optimistic news was nothing more than hot air.
In its place, Pichot sent a warning across the bows of all concerned by disclosing that the powers-that-be would have to sit down and discuss again in Sydney in 12 days’ time to redraft the entire grid structure, emphasizing the fact that had achieved only 40% in terms of finding an agreed solution.
The former Pumas scrum-half has threatened to step down if he is unable to find a way through the mess citing that he does not wish to be a part of rugby’s ruin.
When asked about Rugby’s future, he said that it was for sure under threat.
“If you ask me as to the playing side, it’s not working. The bottom lines are not there. We changed the calendar.”
“We thought we had a fix. We are reviewing that. We started two months ago, and we are reopening the door in Sydney to discussing it internally.
“We did have [club representatives] in San Francisco, the owners of all the parties. It’s not that we should go against them. We should work with them to see what’s better.
“But World Rugby has to lead this because, at the end of the day, we have to take care of the international game. Look at the balance sheets of some of the nations and you can see exactly where we stand.”
The San Francisco agreement had garnered a huge fanfare and it was on the agenda that the June Test will be conducted in July to accommodate the French and English clubs wish to play then.
The word has it that World Rugby is considering getting rid of the November series of congenial Tests and setting up voluntary home-and-away international series in October.
Pichot said, “We don’t want friendlies. We want games with an edge.”
The agreement from San Francisco had the deal that the English domestic season would start later to allow the international players proper test, be it the end of September or October.
However, within weeks, Premier Rugby hinted that it would prefer to start in September and run through the end of June, with rest periods built in that 10-11-month season.
Pichot was unimpressed.
Pichot said, “They didn’t honor what we said in the San Francisco meeting.”
“Players cannot carry on playing as they are now. You cannot have them playing 30-plus games, all top games, just because you want bums on seats, just because you want to sell tickets.
“Everyone wants a competitive club game. Everyone wants a competitive international game.
“So, you want the players to sell the seats and attract the [TV] eyeballs. It is the same athlete at the center of it. You have to take care of the athlete. And they must be the priority.
“I think like a player. I have played for money. I have no problems with playing for money. I’m not saying I have the solution, but I know that this has to be addressed.
“The first principle is the player’s welfare because they inspire everyone. That is important for the growth of the game. But doing that is tough. Who trades what?”
“I personally don’t think the international game should be more than 12 weeks.”
“If I see you in Japan [World Cup 2019] and I say ‘I haven’t succeeded’ then maybe I’ll go further and harder or I’ll go home. I’m not going to be an accomplice to rugby’s ruin.”
He believes that it is important that World Rugby negotiate with the club power brokers in England and France to find out a solution.
“The clubs all want an international game,” said Pichot. “It is not a question of them not wanting the international game. It is not that.
“So why don’t we speak to them? Why don’t we get together? If rugby wants to be a big and a sound business, we cannot behave like an old school organization.
“What we can’t do is put it aside. I know it’s difficult. The biggest problem is egos – in business and in the sport. By the World Cup, we need to have a blueprint for the next 10 years. We have to find a solution.