World Rugby agrees measures to ensure no repeat of last year's Francis Kean election gaffe

World Rugby have announced steps to ensure there will be no repeat of last year’s controversy regarding Fijian Francis Kean, which eventually led to his withdrawal as a candidate for the global body’s executive committee.

Eight candidates were unveiled in May by World Rugby to contest the election for seven places on its executive committee.

Kean was nominated and proposed by the Fiji Rugby Union and seconded by the Federation Francaise de Rugby, whose president Bernard Laporte was seeking to become World Rugby’s new vice-president, a role he went on to clinch. 

Kean had been convicted of manslaughter after killing a man in 2006, but he served just three months of an 18-month sentence after the assault happened at the wedding of one of Prime Minister’s Frank Bainimarama’s daughters a month after Bainimarama seized power in a military coup. 

The backstory to Kean sparked negative headlines around the world when confirmation that he was an executive committee candidate was at odds with chairman Bill Beaumont’s re-election manifesto which promised a wide-ranging governance review look at the “purpose, role, remit and membership of exco, council, general assembly and committees”.

Kean eventually dropped out of the race and Beaumont, who went on to win a second term as chairman, has now delivered what he promised in his election mandate with vice-chairman Laporte. Chaired by British Olympic Committee chairman and former UK Olympics and Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson, a package of seven interim recommendations have been endorsed by the World Rugby council. 

The recommendations are:
1. The establishment of an ethics and conduct charter for elected officials;
2. The introduction of a fit and proper person’s test for council, EXCO and all standing committees under its jurisdiction;
3. Robust conflict of interest management process which protects the integrity and effectiveness of decision-making;
4. A target of at least 40 per cent female representation on committees with the promotion of women leaders in the sport;

5. Player representation throughout all the committee structures, including EXCO, to ensure player-centric decision-making;
6. A continued focus on diversity, skill set, independence, capability and geographical representation when forming committees;
7. Council meetings to continue to occur twice a year – one meeting in person and one remote. 

Beaumont said: “I welcome the interim report of the governance working group and its seven initial recommendations, and would like to thank the independent chair Hugh Robertson for his excellent leadership in progressing important work which will provide a clear and comprehensive pathway for progressive reform of governance within World Rugby for the betterment of all.

“We are undertaking this important and necessary process with the ambition of implementing and living the best possible standards of good governance, furthering the effectiveness and diversity of our structures, ensuring they reflect the values and universality of the game.

“Our performance is best measured by actions, not just words. We are heading in a very encouraging direction – that enables us to best achieve our purpose of growing the sport worldwide by making it more relevant and accessible. All of the governance practices, processes and procedures we implement must be implemented meaningfully with that purpose in mind.

“This is and will continue to be an independent-led process and I would like to thank the unions, regions and International Rugby Players (IRP) for their feedback and submissions.”

Laporte, who had his own difficulties in France in 2o20, added: “One of our major commitments was to commission a thorough review of our governance that would find the best possible structure and ways of working as well as ensuring wider diversity within the leadership of the game. These outcomes are just the first step.

“Hugh Robertson and all the members of the working group will continue their mission, to closely review the current governance model in light of our new strategic plan, which will be published shortly.

“World Rugby must lead positive governance change in our sport, and we are encouraged with these first recommendations and motivated by the next stage of the review process, which will ensure that we can meet current and future challenges.”