World Rugby and IRPA agree new MOU

By Pete Fairbairn, 14.11.17

World Rugby and the International Rugby Players’ Association (IRPA) have agreed terms on a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with IRPA Co-presidents Richie McCaw (New Zealand) and Jonathan Sexton (Ireland) playing critical roles in driving the terms of the new MOU.

IRPA is the world representative body for professional Rugby players on international issues of importance to the players and the game, with Australia’s players represented through RUPA’s membership of IRPA along with Player Associations from England, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Pacific Islands, South Africa and Wales. RUPA Chief Executive Officer Ross Xenos is one of the two Southern Hemisphere elected Directors on the IRPA Board.

The new MOU, which will give professional players an even stronger voice in the game and sees IRPA relocate to Dublin to increase collaboration with Rugby’s governing body, is a four-year agreement running from 2017 – 2020.

Critically, it ensures players will be represented and consulted on key issues and decisions affecting the professional players and the future of Rugby throughout the world.

IRPA works alongside international, national and competition governing bodies, to ensure there is player representation and involvement in the key decision-making processes of the game and directly within collaboration with World Rugby.

Key elements of the agreement include:

- A co-operative approach to resolving key international issues

- The joint management of the ongoing Rugby Athletes’ Commission and player consultation and input into the annual World Rugby Medical Commission Conference

- A focus on all aspects on player welfare, including concussion, mental health; and player load

- An agreement to work together on various collaborative projects such as agent registration and personal development programmes.

- A continued commitment to engage on research projects together, such as post tournament player surveys and reports.

- The proactive involvement of Players in game related issues such as international player release, eligibility and availability, law reviews; and competition, tournament and season structure matters as they arise

The Rugby Athletes’ Commission, which was established in 2014, is a key forum for players to voice their opinions and work with World Rugby to help with the provision of development and support programmes in the key areas of career, education and work experience, financial management, professional Rugby obligations and mental health and wellness. 

Areas relating to concussion, game training and playing load, injury prevention and rehabilitation and player health and safety will be discussed on an ongoing basis and, in particular, at the annual World Rugby Medical Commission conference. 

Double Rugby World Cup winning captain and IRPA Southern Hemisphere President Richie McCaw, who also played a key role in the negotiations, said

“the historic agreement between IRPA and World Rugby is ground-breaking in its nature.

“It sets the tone for future interactions between professional players and administrators at a global level,” he continued. “I have no doubt that this MOU will allow IRPA to build from strength to strength given the opportunities that this agreement presents and the strong relationship that exists with World Rugby.”

“It’s important that players are united and have a strong voice in the game,” IRPA Northern Hemisphere president Jonathan Sexton said. “This deal with World Rugby is a good step forward to addressing many of issues facing Rugby players across the world.

“There are obviously still areas, especially around player welfare, that we have to improve and I’m confident that IRPA can work positively with World Rugby and the domestic Player Associations and National Unions to make the sport better for all involved, both on and off the field.”

The platform created by the new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has also allowed IRPA to relocate their head office from Auckland to Dublin to be in closer proximity to World Rugby’s headquarters in the Irish Capital, and recruit a dedicated CEO in former Rugby Players Ireland head (and former Waratahs player) Omar Hassanein.  

“We want to thank and acknowledge World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont, CEO Brett Gosper and his management team for the work they have put into this MOU, and look forward to seeing IRPA under Omar’s leadership continue to thrive,” founding IRPA Executive Director Rob Nichol said.

New IRPA CEO Omar Hassanein praised the agreement of the MOU and the relocation of IRPA’s offices to Dublin for the first time.

“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,” Hassanein said. “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.”

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said that “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.”

The MoU also sees an agreement for the Players’ Association to share in an increased portion of the game’s proceeds to enable further development of key development and support programmes.

To find out more about IRPA, visit the website here.

Pete Fairbairn
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