Former Governor-General Peter Gosgrove put to work on rugby governance review

Wayne Smith, Senior Sport Writer
August 3, 2020

General Sir Peter Cosgrove might have expected life to quieten down after completing his term as Governor-General of Australia last year, but instead he has been put to work on a review of global governance at World Rugby.

It’s a rare day when an election promise is made good, especially in the world of sport, but the review was foreshadowed in the manifesto released by Bill Beaumont and Bernard Laporte before they were elected, respectively, president and vice-president of World Rugby.

World Rugby’s last governance review was conducted only in 2015 but indications are that another one may in fact be necessary. The elections were rocked by a Sunday Times investigation into the candidacy of Fiji Rugby Union chairman Francis Kean for the World Rugby executive committee, given that he had been convicted of manslaughter in 2007. Kean, who had initially been charged with murder, ultimately stood down from the election, allowing the seven remaining candidates to fill the seven available positions. One of them was Australia’s Brett Robinson.

There was also disquiet at the way that the beaten candidate for the presidency, Argentina’s Gus Pichot, resigned from World Rugby, hinting at backroom deals being done to secure Beaumont’s victory in a hard-fought election that eventually went the way of the former England captain, 28-23.

Cosgrove has come on as one of three independents on the review board, representing the southern hemisphere. The review will be led by Sir Hugh Robertson, chair of the British Olympic Association and a former British minister for sport under Conservative prime minister David Cameron. American ice hockey Olympic gold medallist and a former International Olympic Committee executive committee member Angela Ruggiero is the independent member from the northern hemisphere.

Cosgrove is a former Rugby Australia director and previously worked on an ARU governance review, but he now has no direct affiliation with the game, aside from being a staunch Waratahs and Wallabies fan. That made him an ideal person to be sounded out by World Rugby ExCo member Robinson for a role on the review panel.

“We are supposed to look at conflict of interest stuff, we are supposed to look at ‘fit and proper person’ stuff,” Cosgrove told The Australian.

“But I have been consulting people from global sports which have national representation, like Jayne Hdlicka of Tennis Australia, like John Coates of the Australian Olympic Committee. I’m looking at a range of best practice examples to bounce off what World Rugby does.”

While the panel is led by the three independents, it is also heavily stacked with a spread of leading officials from northern and southern hemisphere countries, including Martyn Philips, the CEO of Welsh Rugby, South African Rugby Union president Mark Alexander and Argentina rugby boss Marcelo Rodriguez. Former Waratahs player Omar Hassanein, an Australian, is also included as chief executive of the International Rugby Players Association.

“We always thought that the timetable was going to have our report in the hands of World Rugby by September to take to the World Rugby council meeting in November, but that was a heroic aspiration,” he said. “We’ve just been told by the secretariat in Dublin (World Rugby headquarters) to take another three weeks.”

Wayne Smith
Senior Sport Writer