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AGUSTIN DANZA, CEO BRAZIL RUGBY

As rugby continues to proliferate around the globe, one of the newest hot spots for growth and development is Brazil. With a population of over 200 million, and a country infused with a significant sport culture, the nation is making conservative but goal-oriented strides for success on the world rugby stage.

The CEO of Brazil’s Rugby Confederation is Agustin Danza a native of Argentina, where he played rugby in Buenos Aires. He worked for Bain and Company in Sao Paulo, and the company sent him to Columbia Business School for his MBA. Upon returning, he was offered the Brazil CEO position in 2014 by an enthusiastic group of prominent businessmen who had played local rugby. Their idea was to form a professional sports organization with transparency and strict rules for efficient corporate governance.

Danza’s mission the first three-years was to build the organization’s foundation, and solicit sponsors for the new, national rugby entity. Local and international sponsors lined up to support the Confederation. Signing on were a large Brazil bank, Heineken, Deloitte, Unilever, Topper Sportswear, and others with contracts extending to 2020. The objective is to grow the game and put Brazil on the world rugby map.

The short-term goals are for Brazil Men to qualify for the Rugby World Cup in 2023, and for the Women to make the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The latter objective seems more reasonable as the Women (who played in the Rio 2016 Games) have recently slotted a berth in the World Rugby Sevens World Cup in San Francisco in 2018.

To date, there are 300 clubs in Brazil, with 80-percent in the south and south east, especially, in the city of San Paulo. That city witnessed the first beginnings of rugby in the 1880s with the formation of the Sao Paulo Athletic Club. (NB. Rugby and soccer football arrived simultaneously in the 1880s from British workers and teachers. But when the British departed, they took the rugby game back home but left soccer football to the working class. And the rest is magnificent history.)

Hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics – and with the return of rugby after 92 years in the sevens’ version – boosted the awareness of the sport in Brazil. Currently, there are approximately thirty-million “interested” and about five-million who claim to be “fans.” These are small numbers today but have every chance of increasing over-time, particularly, as the Women’s and Men’s national teams play in South America against rivals and find top-quality matches overseas.

The Men’s squad needs more international games for its young (average age is 23) team. In 2015, the national XV played only five games, and that total will increase to twenty in 2018.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup in England generated 500,000 television viewers in Brazil, markedly up from 200,000 in 2011.

Danza is confident that with a combination of professional governance, short-term objectives, and long-term player commitments, Brazil will improve its world rugby footprint.