British athletes "sent an unprecedented letter" to WADA warning it will be a "catastrophe for clean sport" if Russia is "brought in from the cold" at a crucial exec board meeting next week, according to Sean Ingle of the London GUARDIAN. The letter from UK Anti-Doping’s athlete commission, which is signed by several top Olympic and Paralympic names including Lizzy Yarnold and Callum Skinner, also warns WADA that a U-turn would leave athletes "no longer having faith in the system." It reflects the growing concern that the Russian Anti-Doping Agency could be reinstated when WADA's exec committee meets in Seychelles on Sept. 20 -- "even though Russia has not yet accepted the McLaren report" or "allowed independent investigators access to the Moscow laboratory." The letter said, "Two of the conditions directed by the Russia roadmap have not yet been met, and to readmit them despite this would be a catastrophe for clean sport. We play our sports by the rules, and we expect the institutions that govern us, and which are there to protect us and our competition, to play by the rules too" (GUARDIAN, 9/13).
A A$4M ($2.9M) funding boost for rugby in western Sydney is "a step closer to reality" after Rugby Australia gave a "conditional green light" to Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest's bid to put a World Series Rugby team in the city's west, according to Georgina Robinson of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. A "high-level meeting" between Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle and her counterparts at NSW Rugby and the Sydney Rugby Union on Monday agreed to move to the next step of discussions with Forrest and his World Series team, "who are proposing to fund a team in the region as part of their eight-team vision for the international rebel league." It is understood correspondence was sent from RA offices making the development official, but that "one of many conditions of further engagement is that Shute Shield players be off limits." Castle said, "We are in a deep dialogue with Minderoo [Forrest's company] into how we can work together to support the competition, with respect to the importance of protecting the Shute Shield, Queensland Premier Rugby and the player development pathways on the eastern seaboard." It is a "significant development in the World Series saga." Forrest's vision for the western Sydney team, which will join teams in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore as well as the Western Force, is understood to have "a heavy Pacific Islands influence." His representatives have reportedly already approached Tonga, Fiji and Samoa to "gauge their interest" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 9/13).
World Rugby Vice-Chair Agustín Pichot "warned that the sport has 12 months to save itself from disintegrating if it does not manage to find agreement on a global calendar," according to Mick Cleary of the London TELEGRAPH. It "had been thought that the announcement of a unified schedule, one that would serve the potentially competing interests" of club and test rugby, "was imminent" following an agreement in San Francisco in January last year. Those "optimistic noises have proved to be hot air." Instead, Pichot "sent a warning shot across the bows of all concerned" by revealing that the "powers-that-be" would have to sit down again in Sydney on Sept. 24 to "rework the whole grid structure," remarking that they were only 40% of the way in terms of "finding an agreed solution." He threatened to "walk away if he cannot help to navigate a way through the mess," saying, "I do not want to be an accomplice to rugby’s ruin." Pichot was asked if he thinks the future of the int'l game is "under threat." He said, "I think it is. If you ask me as a businessman, the business side of it is not working. If you ask me as to the playing side, it’s not working. The bottom lines are not there" (TELEGRAPH, 9/12). In London, Samuel Lovett reported Pichot "also expressed his concerns for the game's players," who he fears are "at risk of being neglected amid the cumbersome politicking of the sport's various unions." As an example, he pointed to Premiership Rugby, "which is currently in negotiations" to secure a new multi-million pound backing for the league, "having recently turned down an offer" of £275M ($361M) from CVC for majority control. Pichot "feels let down by the league's announcement that future domestic seasons will extend into June." He said, "It's all a trade-off and who pays for that? The players. I felt that Premier Rugby didn't honor what we said in the San Francisco meeting" (INDEPENDENT, 9/13).