Player Association News

November 28 2017

World Rugby Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Action - Sneak in Clause Fining Players for Personal Messages on Wrist; Words - Announce Agreement with Players Association Giving Them Greater Voice in Decision-Making

[ed. comments below]

They say Actions Speak Louder Than Words and it's interesting to see World Rugby in the news on the subject of giving players more voice in decision-making. On one hand the NZ Herald reports on how World Rugby "buried" a clause on writing messages on wrist tape without player consultation, and then there's World Rugby's announcement they've signed an MOU with the IRPA to allow "player voice to be strengthened within rugby's decision-making processes". Sounds a lot like the words doing all the talking here, not the action.

Jen Kish was one such athlete affected and surprised by this decision.

There have been almost 450 likes on the tweet, 21 comments and 116 retweets. She's not the only player to express her view.

Niall Williams the NZ Black Fern player asked outright, "what messages World Rugby saw on wrists that made them come to this decision"? Perhaps it was messages like "Standing Rock" that Maori prop Kane Hames wrote on his wrist when NZ Maori played USA last year. World Rugby are not leaders in social justice, they wait for something to go well beyond mainstream before they jump on board, indigenous rights in the USA would not be in their wheelhouse.

On a positive note, World Rugby did make a major announcement that they were opening "the number of people who may sit on Council – its highest decision-making body – from 32 to 49, with the 17 new representatives to be women." So having female representation on its all male council by the year 2017, about 100 years after women were allowed to vote in much of the rugby world, sounds about right for how quick World Rugby responds to the changing social landscape. As an aside it's interesting to see the year women were given the vote as an indication on how progressive the nation is on social change, NZ were well ahead of the pack (1893), Australia (1902), USA (1920), Ireland (1918 partial; 1922 full), UK (1918 partial, 1928 full), Canada (1917–1919 for most of Canada; Prince Edward Island in 1922; Newfoundland in 1925; Quebec in 1940), France (1944), South Africa (1930 European and Asian women; 1994 all women).

New Zealand were far ahead of the bunch and it's where most of the press is emanating from in the issue of freedom of expression on wristbands. We're not seeing much from the home nations press on this one. Also another point to note on the World Rugby - IRPA (player's association) agreement, it involves moving the IRPA headquarters from Auckland, NZ to Dublin, Ireland so it can be with World Rugby... hmmm.

NZ Herald

World Rugby's directive in banning rugby sevens players from writing personal messages on their wrist tape was 'buried' in an agreement signed by teams, says New Zealand Rugby Players Association chief executive Rob Nichol.

Nichol told the Radio Sport Breakfast that the law change, brought on by World Rugby to align the sport with the Olympics, was a surprise to the players.

"It came apparently through the participation agreement that the teams signed. But it was buried. We certainly weren't across it. New Zealand Rugby, I don't think were across it and the players haven't been consulted or involved in the decision, from our perspective anyway," Nichol told the Radio Sport Breakfast.

"We're just trying to unpack it a bit and work with World Rugby and try and address it."

Players yesterday laballed the law change as 'ridiculous' but in a statement World Rugby said the rule under was permitted under the IOC's terms of participation where no slogans, symbols or messaging is permitted.

"There has been a significant increase in strapping 'art' or 'messages' on the series in recent seasons, which is impossible to police for inappropriate or political statements by the match officials in the short period of time before entering the field in a sevens environment across multiple matches and in multiple languages," the statement said.

"While World Rugby recognises that the overwhelming majority of messages are appropriate and that this is something that players enjoy doing, there have been a small number of occasions where messages have gone un-checked and caused offence to teams, nations, commercial partners etc.

"This is a common-sense approach that has been accepted by all participating teams."

Rugby sevens made its debut at the Olympic Games in Brazil last year and will return in Tokyo in 2020.

Messages 'aren't offensive in any way, shape or form'

Nichol said the messages written by players added flavour to the game and said the Players Association will try and understand the new law before making a call on whether to fight it.

"I don't really understand the basis for it…if we've got a problem with it then put the problem on the table and see what other options there are to solve it. By and large it adds a nice flavour to the game to see people and the players in particular writing small messages that mean something to them that aren't offensive in any way, shape or form."

"We're trying to understand it first and then we'll make a call on whether we will push back on it or how we will push back on it," Nicol told the Radio Sport Breakfast.

"Off the cuff at the moment, based on what we know, we just don't think it's right and we'll look to dialogue with World Rugby and whoever else to see what we can do about it."

Nicol made the point that sport is often used a platform to promote social issues such as the recent marriage equality vote in Australia.

"It happens all the time. If someone of substance passes away, we use that platform to express the loss and to recognise the loss and show support for the family. The numerous times that sporting events are used as platforms for unity to put forward really strong points that society is getting behind and wants to support."

Players face $1,000 fine

Black Ferns player Niall Williams, the sister of All Black Sonny Bill Williams, yesterday said that players could stand to be fined $1,000 should they continue with the practice.

The tweet was endorsed by All Black Ardie Savea and Niall Williams' Black Ferns teammate Sarah Goss, who added: "Rugby should embrace individuality, that's why so many of us play the game".

And, in an interview with the Herald, Canadian sevens player Jen Kish called the policy "just ridiculous", adding: "they have taken away my freedom to express myself".

The 29-year-old has written 'ruck cancer' on her wrists since 2014 after USA player Jill Potter was diagnosed with cancer. Kish said she has continued to write it in support of those battling the disease.

Kish told the Herald: "World Rugby had a manager's meeting yesterday. In the meeting, they were told about this new policy ... I do believe every athlete will be forced to sign this agreement."

Political statements have long been frowned on by World Rugby and New Zealand Rugby but this is the first time the game's governing body has enforced a rule over messages altogether.

Recently All Black prop Kane Hames was given a warning by NZ Rugby after writing a message of support for Native Americans while on a New Zealand Maori tour.

Hames wrote "Standing Rock" on his wrist tape before a match against the USA Eagles in Chicago, a message of support for those protesting an oil pipeline through Native American land in North Dakota.

NZ Rugby also has set guidelines around what players can write on their apparel before matches – former All Black Josh Kronfeld was famously stopped from wearing an anti-nuclear sign on his headgear before a test against France in the 90s.

Many All Blacks write personal messages on their wrists, including loose forward Jerome Kaino, who always writes: "Mum" and "Dad", plus a cross and "Phil 4:13", a reference to a passage in the Bible which reads: "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

Former All Black Aaron Cruden used to write a message on a wrist which highlighted his battle with testicular cancer as a 19-year-old.

World Rugby signs four-year MoU with International Rugby Players Association
Agreement will give players a greater voice in rugby union’s decision-making structures.

Posted: November 28 2017
By: Elena Holmes

World Rugby signs four-year MoU with International Rugby Players Association
The International Rugby Players Association (IRPA), the representative body for interests of rugby union players, and World Rugby, the global governing body for the sport, have signed a memorandum of understanding which improves player representation in the sport’s decision-making structures.

The agreement, which will run from 2017 to 2020, promises a ‘cooperative approach to resolving key international issues’, and is designed to ensure players are represented and consulted on key issues and decisions. The partnership will focus on all aspects of player welfare, including concussion, mental health and player load.

Under the terms of the MoU, World Rugby will increase the portion of rugby union’s proceeds that it gives to the IRPA, with news site Inside the Games reporting that the body’s financial commitment will double to UK£1.5 million (US$2 million) over three years.

The IRPA will also move its headquarters from Auckland in New Zealand to Dublin in Ireland alongside World Rugby.

Other elements of the MoU include the joint management of the Rugby Athletes’ Commission and player consultation on input into the World Rugby Medical Commission Conference; an agreement to work together on collaborate projects such as personal development programmes and research projects; and involvement of players in game-related issues such as international player release, eligibility and availability, law reviews, and competition and season structure matters.

“This MoU greatly enhances our relationship with World Rugby and is fantastic news, for not only all professional players at the elite level but also for the game itself,” said Omar Hassanein, chief executive of the IRPA. “It is a huge positive to have players better represented at boardroom level when key decisions are being made that affect the game of rugby.

“With IRPA acting as guardian to the entire professional player group globally, both parties are conscious that whilst interest and opinions may not always align, the strength of the relationship is in respecting the views of all stakeholders – not least the players themselves who are integral to the success of the game.”

Bill Beaumont, chairman of World Rugby, added: “World Rugby and IRPA share a common vision and mission to ensure that players at all levels are at the heart of the game, and that includes in the boardroom.

“The signing of the historic first memorandum of understanding in 2007 has achieved just that through representation on key committees and working groups and via the Rugby Athletes’ Commission over recent years, ensuring playing viewpoints are included in player welfare, laws and regulatory matters. Under this new MoU as a sport, we can look to an exciting future of growth and prosperity with players central to that ongoing success.”

Pemberton Holmes
Real Estate Sales

Tom Woods' Listings
Heritage House Trophies
Lionheart Sports