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Aussie chief hopes IRB rebrand will boost game

AFP

Brett Gosper, International Rugby Board Chief Executive, insists the global governing body's change of name is more than a cosmetic exerciseBrett Gosper, International Rugby Board Chief Executive, insists the global governing body's change of name is more than a cosmetic exercise

Brett Gosper, International Rugby Board Chief Executive, insists the global governing body's change of name is more than a cosmetic exerciseBrett Gosper, International Rugby Board Chief Executive, insists the global governing body's change of name is more than a cosmetic exercise

The Australian at the helm of the International Rugby Board has insisted the global governing body's change of name is more than a cosmetic exercise.

From November, the IRB will become known as World Rugby, with the new brand to be launched at the IRB World Rugby Conference and Exhibition in London on November 17-18, and the new name coming into effect from November 19.

Brett Gosper, the IRB chief executive, said the change of name was designed to help the global governing body become more relevant to countries beyond the 15-man game's heartland nations.

"It's more inclusive and much easier to connect with and manage all our properties under," Gosper told AFP in a telephone interview on Thursday.

"(The name) IRB is restrictive globally. If you are 'outside of the church' and you see IRB, it doesn't mean much.

"We want to change that," explained Gosper, whose father, Kevan, was for decades a senior figure within the hierarchy of the International Olympic Committee.

Meanwhile the name change is a reflection of an increasingly global game, with seven-a-side rugby, the abbreviated form of a traditionally 15-a-side sport, set to make its Olympic debut at the 2016 Games in Rio.

- Olympic debut -

Gosper, who saw the sevens tournament at this year's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow played out in front of packed crowds, said: "There's no doubt that Sevens has a greater ability to install itself quickly into countries with no history of rugby.

"But the (15-a-side) World Cup remains the shop window and that combination is very strong," added Gosper, who said next year's World Cup in England was on course to break "all records" in terms of attendances, travel packages and commercial returns.

Gosper also pointed to the success of the recent Women's World Cup in France, won by England, as another sign of how the sport was broadening its appeal.

"You had a broadcast audience of three million alone in France, never mind anywhere else, and a full stadium for the semi-finals and final," Gosper said.

What was the International Rugby Football Board was founded in 1886 by the Irish, Scottish and Welsh rugby unions before England joined in 1890, with the initial name change to the IRB coming in 1998.

A longstanding criticism from many involved within southern hemisphere rugby union is that the organisation is too heavily dominated by the sport's established European powers.

But while the board may be changing its name, the 55-year-old Gosper, who has spent much of his working life in Europe, having pursued a career in advertising while playing rugby for the Paris-based Racing Club, said the IRB would not be moving from its Dublin headquarters any time soon.

"We intend to stay in Dublin," he said. "It's a rugby market and that helps with quality recruitment."

But wherever it is based and whatever name it has, several vexed issues that have been a fact of rugby union life since the game turned professional in the 1990s are still to be resolved.

"The greatest challenges are getting a more coherent global calendar, a balance between club and international and obviously player welfare issues," said Gosper.

Of particular concern recently has been the question of concussion, with many involved in the game from school to professional worried that the increasing physicality of the sport at all levels is exposing players to greater risk than ever of a serious injury.

The IRB and several national unions have changed their concussion protocols and Gosper said "we must make sure we remain ahead on player welfare".

Date created : 2014-08-29