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Rugby makes move to get back into Olympics

Rugby makes move to get back into Olympics

The International Rugby Board doesn't want a football-style club vs. country player row to affect its chances of getting a seven-a-side version of the sport into the Olympics.
IRB regulations state that clubs are obligated to release players for international play, but those don't mention the Olympics. So the Dublin-based governing body will use a council meeting in November to set a specific agreement to secure players' release for the Olympic Games period.
"It's very important that the top players will be with us," IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said Friday. "Everyone _ the clubs, the unions, the players, everyone _ said that any updated version (of the regulations) ... has to be carved out within that the players will be released for the Olympic Games."
Like football, the main concern for rugby in the player availability situation would be the wealthy European clubs which contract players from all over the world. Some of Europe's biggest football clubs won an appeal in the Court of Arbitration for Sport against being forced to release star players for the Olympic tournament.
Rugby is pushing for its condensed Sevens format _ a regular side has 15 players _ to be included in the Olympics.
The IRB said it had the full backing of the players and was in continuous talks with the International Rugby Players' Association over issues including the rest period for international matches.
"All the top players are involved in this process," Lapasset said. "They support the sevens in the Olympic movement and we receive the support of all the top level players."
Rugby is confident it can win one of the spots up for grabs for the 2016 Games, which will be held in either Madrid, Spain; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Chicago; or Tokyo. The International Olympic Committee will vote in October 2009 on whether to add up to two sports to the 26 that will be played at London 2012.
Although bringing rugby back to the Olympics for the first time since 1924 would give Pacific Island nations like Tonga and Fiji a chance to fight for their first ever medals, critics point to the sport's narrow market appeal.
A report last month said that 97 percent of the 33 million people who watched last year's World Cup final between South Africa and England came from the eight so-called foundation countries: England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
But the IRB points to growing popularity in Asia, Africa and especially in Spanish-speaking countries, with the sport being played at the next Pan American Games.
"We're seeing good support from a lot of people around the world and I am surprised about that," Lapasset said of the some 70 IOC members that he had spoken with in Beijing.
"Probably it's a good support now to rejoin the Olympics movement, to be recognized apart of the family, which we are."
Rugby's proposed Olympic schedule _ 16 teams playing over three days _ offers one major benefit that squash, golf, roller sports, baseball, softball and karate can't match: Capacity-like crowds at the Olympic stadium over the first week of competition.
"You have a stadium that is empty for a week after the opening ceremony. We can fill that," said Mike Miller, chief executive of the IRB.
The IRB hosts its regular World Cup, for the 15-a-side game, every four years and stages an annual Sevens world series as well as a Sevens World Cup.


Updated : 2020-12-05 20:30 GMT+08:00