Belfast Telegraph

Monday 1 September 2014

Peter Bills' World Cup blog: IRB have questions to answer

The blundering IRB have been getting themselves caught up in some shocking stick down here the last few weeks.

Hardly a day goes by in the pages of the ‘New Zealand Herald’, the country’s largest daily paper, without some story or headline berating the Board for their various failings.



I myself wrote an article earlier in the week saying it had been a great Rugby World Cup, thanks to the people of New Zealand, not the IRB. At nearly 7 weeks, it is ridiculously long, especially when you consider that the Olympic Games takes just 16 days from start to finish and even the soccer World Cup, with 32 participating countries as opposed to 20 here, is done and dusted in just 28 days.



Today’s ‘NZ Herald’ ran a letter from a reader, Gary Carter of Gulf Harbour (near Auckland) with the headline ‘Region should revolt against IRB’.



Carter pointed out that as the IRB Chief Executive Mike Miller had said any team is replaceable in future World Cups, the All Blacks were not needed at the next World Cup in England.



Carter proposed a Southern Hemisphere rugby union, comprising New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Argentina, Tonga, Samoa, Fiji and Namibia. He said “The Southern Hemisphere teams should be revolting straight after this Cup, not waiting for the financially bloated, bloc-voting Northern Hemisphere board members to decide next May on the cup’s financial structure.”



You can hardly find a newspaper in this country which is not lambasting the IRB for an endless series of gaffes it has committed. Fining individual players a whopping $10,000 for daring to wear their own mouth guards with a sponsor’s name on it in such tiny letters you would have needed powerful binoculars just to see the letters, was one example.



Allowing England to get off virtually scot free (with not even a fine) for their blatant cheating in switching the balls for goal kicking (contrary to the rules) during the Romania game, was farcical when compared with the draconian punishment meted out to the individual players wearing mouth guards with names.



The IRB is at war with the Samoan centre Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu for daring to express criticism of them on his Twitter site.



The IRB seems to have spent most of this World Cup either picking fights with individuals (like myself, for the story I wrote from two Scottish officials slamming the organisers for originally planning to chuck them out of their Auckland hotel before it was even certain that they had failed to qualify for the quarter finals), to individual players, to the host union (the IRB’s Chief Executive suggesting they weren’t needed in four years time) to anyone else daring to express a view contrary to their own.



They have come over as high handed, arrogant, bullying individuals. The huge cost of having a small army of them down here for the best part of 2 months living in luxury hotels, flying first class and wining and dining endlessly, seems a price the game could do without, in the view of a lot of people.



Is it not time that every IRB member was forced to declare all his expenses on these junket trips, as MPs are now being forced to do at Westminster? Might not that allow the game and the millions who support it worldwide by buying tickets, to decide whether the sport is getting value for money from these people?

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