England rugby legend Bill Beaumont re-elected to World Rugby's top job
Chorley-born Beaumont – who Fylde Rugby Club’s most famous player, won the vote against challenger Agustin Pichot 28-23.
The Argentinian, who was Beaumont’s vice-chairman, will be replaced in that role by Frenchman Bernard Laporte.
Former England and British Lions captain Beaumont was first elected to the position in 2016 and says his primary task will be to lead the sport’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.
The 68-year-old said: “Over the last four years we have achieved a lot, but we are at half-time and need to press on in the second half. I now have a clear mandate to work with Bernard to implement progressive, sustainable change.
“As an organisation, we must lead, be transparent, accountable and continue to serve for all. We must be united in our drive to make this great sport even better, simpler, safer and more accessible.
“We must listen to players, fans, competitions, our unions and regions, and take decisions that are in the best interests of all with our strong values to the fore.
“Now is not the time for celebration. We have work to do.
“We are tackling Covid-19 and must implement an appropriate return-to-rugby strategy that prioritises player welfare, while optimising any opportunity to return to international rugby this year in full collaboration with club competitions for the good of players, fans and the overall financial health of the sport.
“I am determined to ensure that the spirit of unity and solidarity that has characterised our work in response to an unprecedented global Covid-19 pandemic, is the cornerstone of a new approach that will deliver a stronger, more sustainable game when we emerge with new enthusiasm, a renewed purpose and an exciting future.”
Beaumont, who hails from Chorley, played all his club rugby at Fylde over 13 years at the Woodlands.
The club posted this message on social media: “Many congratulations to Sir Bill Beaumont, Fylde RFC’s favourite and most famous son, for his re-election as Chairman of World Rugby for another four years.
It was a tight and well argued campaign by current Vice-Chair Agustín Pichot and Sir Bill edged the vote by 28-23.
“Best wishes to Sir Bill and World Rugby for the next four years from everyone at the Woodlands. It is likely to be a very challenging period as our great game faces numerous issues as well as Covid-19.”
Pichot, who had worked alongside Beaumont for the last four years, had promised a radical new approach.
Beaumont added: “I would like to thank Gus for his friendship and support over the last four years.
“While we stood against each other in this campaign, we aligned in many ways, and I have the utmost respect for him. Gus is passionate about the sport and his contribution has been significant.”
Laporte, President of the French Rugby Federation, was voted into his position unopposed.
Beaumont was knighted last year for services to rugby and fittingly held a celebration dinner at the Woodlands.
His new four-year term will officially begin on May 12 at World Rugby’s annual meeting of council.