LONDON (AFP): Bernard Lapasset and Bill Beaumont will resume their contest to be world rugby’s top administrator in the unlikely setting of Los Angeles Airport on Monday.
The vote in a election between current International Rugby Board (IRB) chairman Lapasset and vice-chairman Beaumont, a former England captain, was due to have taken place in Auckland ahead of the World Cup final in October.
But members of the IRB’s ruling council decided to to delay a decision which could have overshadowed the build-up to the sport’s showpiece match.
The original meeting broke up in acrimony amidst claims both camps had tried to woo delegates from smaller nations and threatened them with the loss of financial support and development tours if they voted for the ‘other’ side.
Instead an adjourned council meeting will reconvene in Los Angeles, not known as a rugby hotbed but the most convenient ‘one-stop’ venue for the 26 delegates representing the global game.
The mandates of both experienced French administrator Lapasset and Beaumont expire on January 1, hence the need for the IRB to make a decision before the end of this year.
Privately, Beaumont is understood to believe Lapasset has reneged on a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ to allow him a free run at becoming chairman which the duo agreed when they were both appointed to their respective roles in 2007.
During the World Cup, where France beat England in the quarter-finals, hosts and eventual champions New Zealand complained the existing method used to distribute revenues from the tournament meant they lost money by competing in the event.
New Zealand officials even went so far as to suggest the All Blacks would boycott the 2015 edition in England unless new financial arrangements were put in place.
The 59-year-old Beaumont, who also captained and later managed the British and Irish Lions, is understood to be sympathetic to their concerns and, if elected chairman, is expected to back an independent review of the IRB’s governance structure.
“I think I can make a difference,” former lock Beaumont told The Times in an interview on Friday. “I have dedicated a lot of my life to rugby because I have been lucky to play it at the highest level.
“I want to try and put something back into the game. I have had great support from countries and many ex-internationals around the world.”
But the 64-year-old Lapasset, a former president of the French Rugby Federation (FFR) and a key figure in France’s successful bid to stage the 2007 World Cup, has plenty of supporters too.
With two European candidates, Monday’s vote is not expected to split along traditional northern and southern hemisphere lines, with the outcome as yet too close to call.
Former All Blacks captain Graham Mourie is standing for vice-chairman, along with South Africa’s Oregan Hoskins, although Beaumont could yet seek re-election in that position if he loses to Lapasset.