Gosper insists it's good to talk
September 17, 2012
Brett Gosper succeeded Mike Miller as the International Rugby Board's chief executive last month © Getty Images
International Rugby Board chief executive Brett Gosper has vowed to embrace the social media world and debate the major issues in the game with fans.
Gosper, an Australia U21 international during his playing days, joined the sport's governing body last month as a successor to Mike Miller and has wasted no time in making an impact. Whether he is comparing All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams' marketability to that of global sports icon David Beckham or wading into the debate over the controversial Television Match Official trial, the 53-year-old has shown he is not afraid to speak his mind.
And that straight-talking and potentially headline-grabbing approach extends to the micro-blogging site Twitter where he has encouraged supporters and media alike to join him to talk about the game.
"I am not here to just push paper around," insists the former advertising executive whose first few weeks in the role have already seen him visit Japan to check on preparations for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and conduct a similar fact-finding mission in England - the home of the 2015 tournament.
Given the demands of his position and the sport you would think he has little time to talk to supporters about the issues that matter to them or even the inclination to speak freely in a forum that has proven costly for many outspoken individuals in the sporting world - but no. Gosper's willingness to engage and more importantly speak his mind is certainly welcome in a world dominated by colourless press statements.
"Often they ask about the rules or about the game in general," he adds. "You have to be a little bit careful as there are one or two minefields here and there but I try to the best of my ability to give an answer and a point of view."
Gosper is set to guide the sport through one of the key periods in its history with a hard-won return to the Olympic programme scheduled for 2016 and the first World Cup staged in outside a traditional stronghold for the game - and in Asia. He is clearly determined to ensure the sport makes great strides in the coming years but first he aims to get up to speed.
"I think you have got to consume and absorb to begin with," he adds. "You can come in with some preset ideas about what your priorities should be but you have to park those for a while and get through the initial period where you are learning lot and save them for when you come out of that tunnel.
"Of course we have major strategic priorities. We are trying to open the game up to more people to participate, to watch in more countries and hence the bold decisions to take the World Cup to new places, go to the Olympics and spread the word of rugby throughout the world."
The sport has already enjoyed a major success under his tenure with Argentina making a seamless step up to the Rugby Championship stage. The foundations may have been laid under the previous administration but the Pumas' spirit is welcome all the same.
"They have been hugely competitive and it has added some real spice to the Championship and it's been great to see," said Gosper. "We have supported Argentina financially to get to the point where they could enter the Championship and we believe that was the right call for world rugby - and now the Argentinians are stepping up and I think they are very close to a first victory."
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Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum and you can also follow him on Twitter.