Barcelona's handling of Lionel Messi is the way forward for rugby, says Agustin Pichot
Last Updated: 25/04/20 7:03am
Agustin Pichot believes rugby can learn some valuable lessons from Barcelona's handling of Lionel Messi in terms of player management.
Pichot is hoping to unsurp current chairman Sir Bill Beaumont for the top job in World Rugby, with a global season being one of the main points in his manifesto.
According to Pichot, a global season would benefit both club and country and more importantly help player welfare. His radical ideas have garnered plenty of support but his plans to overhaul the traditional rugby seasons has also received plenty of criticism.
"When I negotiated for Argentina to go into the rugby championship, I spoke to every owner of a club that had an Argentina player," explained Pichot on the Will Greenwood podcast.
"We had a great outcome and they released the players and we have a good understanding between club and country. At the end of the day, I want the club to succeed as much as the country. Even the most radical club owners understood this and it was done.
"If you look at the model of football, I have been talking to Barcelona many times about the relationship between the biggest player in the world, Lionel Messi.
"He gets paid millions of dollars a week by one club who works very well with the federation of Argentina to release him for how many weeks for the meaningful calendar for the national team.
"They work together to protect Messi.
This is a critical election at a critical time for Rugby.— Agustín Pichot (@AP9_) April 11, 2020
I’m running to be Chairman of World Rugby. Read my plan below to see how I will:
•Secure the investment needed for our future
•Support both established and emerging unions
•Create a global game pic.twitter.com/JnQfrZEWsR
"At the end of the day, protecting the players is the most important thing. We want them to play as much as they can in a safe environment. I want the likes of the EPCR, the Six Nations, the clubs to be successful, to make a lot of money.
"They are going to say that playing in October and November is against the spirit of rugby but that is because there has been no understanding between the government bodies and the clubs, and that is what we need to work on."
Fit for purpose
Pichot may have ruffled feathers with some of his comments - especially saying the sport needs a World Rugby Management fit for purpose - but he is adamant that rugby bodies and clubs have lost faith in World Rugby and rebuilding that trust is crucial going forward.
"I think doing 'copy and paste' all the time creates a comfort zone," added Pichot.
"If you go into a changing room and say we are going to play the All Blacks - it becomes about the mindset. If you lost the last game but then you don't change anything and carry on doing exactly the same thing, you will get exactly the same outcome.
"I believe that the mindset of the management team has to change. That is the biggest challenge. It is about the vision and the strategy for a global game for all, but to do this, we all have to have the same mindset. That is what I mean by fit for purpose - everyone has to believe in the game plan.
"We have to take this vertical way of looking - why do you think Six Nations doesn't trust World Rugby? Why do you think SANZAAR does not trust World Rugby? We have to fix that because we need to facilitate through World Rugby those conversations."
Proactive not reactive
The current vice-chairman admits to have been frustrated by the slow pace of World Rugby and says it needs to be at the forefront of all things rugby.
He said: "I have been part of the system for the last four years and I have been explaining why that system could not change and why it has been the same for x number of years. We have been reactive since 1995.
"World Rugby reacted, we reacted to the owners of the club, we reacted to private equity with CVC. At the end of the day, we have to be on the front foot and this has to be with the mindset of the organisation.
I have no personal problems with Bill (Beaumont) at all, but we do see the game in different ways.
"He has been there for a number of years and things have one pace."
Pichot is also at pains to say that while his ideas are radical, he is open to listening to all parties invested in the game of rugby and says his manifesto is far from irrational.
"When I played for Argentina, I wanted to be the best player that I could. When I stopped playing there was the opportunity to make the game better in my country, then in the Americas, and now within World Rugby. That is why I carried on and my manifesto is about what I think the world needs with the passion that I have for the game.
"I think every governing body that has worked with me in the last 10 years, knows what I am about. Do you think that AUS, NZ, SA would back a leader who was irrational?
"How did Argentina develop with their system and the objectives to change nearly 100 years of history?
"We embraced professional rugby while still protecting the amateur clubs and respecting tradition. It's not like we did it as a revolution and kicked everyone out - I do not do things that way and everyone in world rugby knows that. I am not here to go in and kick the whole thing up, I am not like that. I have a lot of passion for the game."
Click play above for more of Agustin Pichot on the Will Greenwood podcast!