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Bernard Lapasset’s eight-year chairmanship of World Rugby will end in 2016, when England’s Bill Beaumont assumes the position. Lapasset leaves behind an impressive legacy of growth and development unequalled in all past years of the venerated organization.
It will be helpful to recap some of his substantial highlights:
Brand Name Change – The name International Rugby Board stood for years, but mainly via its abbreviation IRB. Yet, IRB did not say “rugby” to any knowledgeable entity outside the sport, especially, the media. The solution was to change over to World Rugby, which clarified the organization, and importantly, emphasized its global reach. With the rebranding came a new logo design that also accommodates the flags of all nations, and a new, user-friendly web site that’s always packed with up-to-date results and useful information.
Rugby World Cups
Start with Lapasset’s position as head of the French Rugby Federation, when it organized the RWC of 2007 in France, which, at that time, was the most successful of past world cups. This RWC broke all attendance records, benefitting from France and Paris’s tourist destination attraction.
Then, the RWC moved to New Zealand, which drew fewer fans in the seats than France, but generated a large world-wide television audience
The jewel in Laspasset’s world cup crown was 2015’s highly profitable event in England and Wales, which eclipsed France 2007 for stadium attendance, media coverage globally, and monies generated.
Finally, in 2014 the Women’s Rugby World Cup held its quadrennial event in Paris, the preliminary games played at the French Rugby Federation’s modern complex at Marcoussis, south of Paris. The semis and the final were played to full capacity in Paris’s Stade Jean Bouian (25,000) to enthusiastic crowds.
Under Lapasset’s aegis, the long planned for return to the Olympics flowered and realized itself, when, in 2009, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted rugby sevens into the 2016 summer games in Rio for women and men. This decision increased rugby’s sport’s media awareness geometrically. The summer Olympics rank as the second most viewed international sport event behind the FIFA (soccer football) World Cup. This August, the world will watch rugby in Rio, thanks to Lapasset and his World Rugby organization.
(Tomorrow: Lapasset’s Legacy – Part II)