Former BOA chief Moynihan proposes Bill which could allow British Government to scrutinise FIFA

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A radical new proposal has been launched that could altar the balance of power between the British Government and sporting organisations and, if successful, would enable the Government to challenge bodies, including FIFA.

Proposed by former Sports Minister Lord Colin Moynihan, who served as British Olympic Association chairman from 2005 until 2012 when he was replaced by fellow Lord, Sebastian Coe, the Private Members Bill submitted to the House of Lords would give Governments the power to scrutinise bodies, including FIFA, to ensure good governance.

National bodies would also be subject to influence, such as golf clubs who do not admit female members.

In return, the Government would have to submit to a number of statutory requirements to prove it was taking sport seriously, while Health and Education Ministers would place annual reports before Parliament on how they were furthering the public health and school sport agendas and the introduction of new legislation relating to match-fixing.

Although Moynihan, who won an Olympic rowing silver medal for Britain at Moscow 1980, admitted Governments should have no role in the actual rules and regulations of sport, he claimed that increased commercialisation meant that a new bill was overdue.

"The Bill would allow the Secretary of State [for Culture, Media and Sport] to challenge FIFA," Moynihan said..

"If every country followed this line, very swiftly FIFA would respond.

"Over the next 20 years, the governance, transparency and accountability of international sport will be even more of an issue.

"There are billions of pounds in sport and we've got to put in place mechanisms that match that investment."

"Only by demonstrating good governance in sport can Government and British sports administrators use their influence internationally.

"Only through the introduction of best governance among international bodies and federations will the problems that have already beset many of the international organisations - from FIFA today, to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Salt Lake City in 2002, and to Formula One over recent years - be consigned to history."

The Bill was introduced into the House of Lords last week and remains in the earliest of stages.

If it is to be successful it will have to pass two readings before a Committee and a Report stage and another reading, before passing a similar process in the House of Commons, during which time it could be rejected or severely amended.

However, even if it is ultimately unsuccessful, as much as anything else the aim of the Bill is to act as a catalyst to provoke debate and keep the issues therein in the public eye.

Good governance in sport is an issue about which there has been a lot of rhetoric in recent times, with it being one important issue in the Olympic Agenda 2020 reform process currently ongoing within the IOC.

But, with IOC President Thomas Bach, also very keen to ensure the autonomy and independence of National Olympic Committees from their respective Governments, the Bill would potentially throw this into question.

Moynihan believes the Bill would provide a vehicle to solve some of the more intractable debates surrounding sport in Britain, while it could also set a precedent for other countries to follow the British lead.

The ongoing corruption allegations surrounding FIFA in recent weeks ahead of the FIFA World Cup in Brazil highlights the importance of changes included in the Bill, it is claimed.

This follows last month's revelation by The Sunday Times in London that it had seen millions of secret documents which allegedly prove football officials were paid a total of $5 million (£3 million/€3.6 million) to back Qatar's bid for the 2022 World Cup.

Since then, FIFA has largely closed ranks and accused critics of being motivated by racism, with it being likely that President Sepp Blatter will successfully stand for a fifth-term as President despite the criticism.

If successful, Moynihan's attempt would mark the first opportunity to legislate against FIFA, because there is currently no mechanism to force change on the governing body except through internal means.

Among other football-related proposals in the Bill is a suggestion that only a limited number of visas should be granted for overseas players but that if they were not used they could be traded for a "considerable" consideration.

The plan, Moynihan believes, would help address the lack of home-grown talent coming through the system to elite level.

Source

Indians upset by mystery woman marching alongside them in Opening Ceremony

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India have complained to London 2012 over an apparent security lapse during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics last night when an unidentified woman walked alongside flag-bearer Sushil Kumar during the athletes' parade.

The young woman, dressed in a red shirt and blue trousers, marched next to the weightlifter, a bronze medallist at Beijing four years ago, despite having no visible accreditation.

India's Chef de Mission P K Muralidharan Raja has now complained to London 2012 about the incident which has become the main talking point in India about the much-praised Opening Ceremony.

"She had no business to walk in with the Indian contingent and we are taking up the issue with the organisers," he said.

"We don't know who she is and why she was allowed to walk in.

"It is a shame that she was with the athletes in the march past.

"We were initially told that she would accompany the contingent till the track but she went on to take the entire lap.

"There was another man also but he stayed back and did not enter the Stadium.

"We have taken strong exception to this.

"The march past is for the athletes and officials attached to the contingent.

"We are totally taken by surprise how a person could just intrude into the track."

A total of 40 Indian athletes and 11 officials dressed in traditional blazers and Rajasthani yellow turbans or yellow sarees marched in the Opening Ceremony, earning one of the biggest cheers of the evening.

"The Indian contingent was shown for hardly ten seconds in the television coverage and the entire focus sadly was on this lady, instead of the athletes," said Raja.

It is a major issue for Raja to take over having only been promoted to the role of Chef de Mission on the eve of the Opening Ceremony after Ajitpal Singh, the original choice, was unable to travel here due to a serious back problem.

By Duncan Mackay at the Main Press Centre in the Olympic Park in London

Source: www.insidethegames.biz

London Olympics 2012, here we are

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Is it the tension which precedes the entry to our Olympic challenge, or are you mesmerised by the spectacular dressings of that great city called London where the Bridge, The Palace, the river Thames, and the bustling old-fashioned taxis which mix with buses, trains, subway and overhead, all fitting snugly into space that often appear insufficient on a normal day. And while the athletes from almost every country (204) in the world have presented an enthusiastic, scintillating and colourful entry into the Olympic stadium, the fans of every sporting discipline will be present to ensure that Olympic history in brought to life four years after Beijing 2008. In open bars, around the parks of central London, Hyde Park, St James Park, the so called soap box Parliament at Hyde Park Corner, human voices using various languages, each representing a nation with obvious dialect, come together to create an atmosphere reminiscent of a carnival without bacchanal, surrounded by an unassuming, but alert police presence. With the brilliant start which saw a brazilian dominace on the football field, where flair and creativity mesmerised the Cameroun Women and the following day, the pain of the Egyptian politics was not spared by the men’s version of football’s ingenuity when the enthusiastic Egyptians chased around a plush field for forty-five minutes in search of a ball that seemed harder for them to find than a needle in a haystack.
The resilience of the Mubarak stained country’s youth showed their fight and surprised south Americans with speed and lethal finishing which led us to believe that the commitment to the sport has surpassed the turmoil of the past year in Cairo. The enjoyment gained from such an exercise was enough for the fans to take a deep breath on the opening day and await more excitement in the days to come. Ironically enough, the chosen Olympic City is clustered with international Cricket, super exciting football from various parts of the world live on TV with teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, AC Milan, Manchester city and many other world Class teams. It appears contrary to what the British was trying to market and one day the financial statistics may reveal the details of the end result. Then there is the constant hum coming from the Jamaicans and fans as to which of their world Class sprinters will earn the gold medals in the sprints. All interpretations echoed different formulas as to Bolt’s fitness. Some claimed that he is now fit and ready to take on all comers, including Yohan Blake, and will keep his success trail as he did between London and Beijing. But, hold a minute! The people friendly triple Gold medallist of the Beijing Olympics, may well be jolted over the new of his close friend and schoolmate will not make the trip to London because of a charge of double murder which has been laid against him recently. If the reports are true about the closeness of these two individuals are correct, Usain may have a serious bug to remove from his mental frame.
Others silently saw his recent withdrawal from what would have been his final preparation before the start of his Olympic Gold chase as a significant piece of evidence that all is still not well and may be just hoping to devise a method of pacing himself from the first round to the final. Possible, but we all have to wait and see. Our women athletes keep sending us some positive messages, not only in Cardiff last week, but for the past three months, and it will be unwise to ignore them. Their opponents are concerned over the recent improvement of Kerry Ann Baptiste , Cleopatra Borell and others, because of the times and distances which are alongside their names at every event. The men’s optimism should not be underestimated although statistics do not quite reflect any level of exuberance other patriotism. The build leading up to the present time, exposes keston bledman and Ronerl Sorillo as the ones leading towards a well judged peaktime, while we all have to await the arrival of the Richard Thompson when he leaves his final technical training before arriving in London. Trinis who have made the trip to provide patriotic support for the Red/white. And black of T&T will hope to erupt and bring London to a liveliness which only exists at Nottinghill carnival.
A Few whispers are about our young and exciting sailor Andrew Lewis, our cycling medal contender Njisane Phillips , together our marksman Roger Daniel. The twin Island state has much to which we can look forward. The atmosphere is electrifying in the Land that was once associated with us. We treasured their guidance then, and we even offered our Olympic gem of that era McDonald Bailey to them. His success was our way of showing the extra ordinary talent of our people. Today, there are many ageing athletes of yesteryear from this blessed country who are eagerly awaiting those who will add to the medal cabinet. Oh, how will Lennox Kilgour, Rodney Wilkes, Wendell Mottley, Edwain Roberts, Kent Bernard, Ed Skinner, ( who is actually present in London), our Olympic Gold medallist Hasely Crawford , and Ato Boldon feel  if Richard Thompson can inspire the group of contenders to another glorious moment to make this a wonderful gift to celebrate our fiftieth Anniversary of Independence. And if, like myself, you will be there to show support and allegiance to our country, our own Caribbean Airlines is ready to take you safely to the destination.
-Alvin Corneal
Source: www.guardian.co.tt

Lewis sixth at Sailing Championship

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Andrew Lewis’ credible sixth place performance at the North American Sailing Championships over the weekend affirmed him a spot to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the 2015 Pan American Games which sails off in Toronto, Canada, from July 10-26.

The Atlantic sponsored sailor, who will also fly the red, white and black at the September 8-21 World Championships, revealed yesterday that he has been working towards becoming an all-round Laser Class athlete for yet another hectic year of international competition.

Having attained Pan Am qualification by producing several strong showings over the weekend, Lewis was among three other Laser sailors who secured spots. The remaining two were Cy Thompson of the US Virgin Islands and Peruvian Stefano Peschiera.

“I set a few personal goals in the lead up to Rio 2016 (Olympics) and my peek event for next year is the Pan Am Games,” he explained. “So with that being said, you can see how import it is for me. It’s a real honour to represent my county in the second highest Games to the Olympics.

It’s a great feeling. And just like every single race I enter, I go with the intentions to win gold.”

Over the past few months, the 2012 Olympic representative has been continuously competing and training on the water. Admitting that he had a shaky start in the early stages of 2014, Lewis made a couple adjustments to his training team and has since seen great productivity.

“To be honest, my year did not start out as smooth as intended. But I changed up my training programme and I am with a new trainer.

This change has switched my results drastically in a more positive light. I feel like I am back on track,” said a motivated Lewis.

Presently, the promising athlete is in California, USA, training with some of the world’s top Laser Class sailors.

He is expected to continue this development regime until early July and return to TT on July 10. Lewis is currently undergoing preparatory work with American number one Laser Class Charlie Buckingham, second ranked Chris Barnard, third rated Eric Bowers; 2012 Olympian and Brazilian number two Bruno Fontes and Thompson.

“We’re all in one camp and this has been the best training of my life thus far. This is also in preparation for World Championships this year in Spain in September. I have the Canada Olympic Class Regatta from 16-20 of August, then World Championships, then CAC games in mid- November, then a few events next year before the Pan Am,” continued Lewis.

Source

Ben Ryan goes 'Inside Olympic 7s' and talks Qualification, eligibility, player availability and just about everything you need to know!

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Former England 7s coach and current Fiji Head Coach Ben Ryan has been entrenched in the process of Rugby 7s becoming an Olympic sport, today he looks at what that means, qualification, eligibility, player availability and just about everything you need to know about Rio Qualification

Next season is different.

The ‘soft’ opening to Rugby 7’s into the Olympics has been going on for some time as pundits and supporters gaze into the future to see what it might bring. For the teams on the ground and the players with ambitions to be walking beside their national flag on the opening ceremony at the Rio Olympics on August 6th 2016, it begins properly on the Gold Coast.

Qualification to be one of those dozen starts in Oz

So, with so many not clear about how everything comes together and some of the changes, I thought I would try my best to have some clarity here.

I say twelve but it’s actually eleven, as Brazil has gained automatic qualification as hosts. It doesn’t matter if you agree or don’t agree with that, that’s the status quo and so the first part of qualification begins with next year’s HSBC World Sevens Series.

The top four at the end of the 2014/15 series are straight through to Rio and though it hasn’t be confirmed, it would be logical to also seed those teams as the top four for the Olympic Competition. That means plenty of jostling between those positions to get top seed status, which would probably also mean for number one seeds sharing a group with the bottom seeds, again, not confirmed but likely to be Brazil.

Making that top four will be huge for those sides. It allows planning and none of the pressure that undoubtedly will come with the next stage of qualification;

Six of the remaining spots will be decided through the regional competitions, split as:

Asia (3)

Europe (4)

Oceania (2)

Africa (3)

North America (2)

South America (2)

That leaves one spot, which will be decided, from a 16-nation repechage tournament with the teams made up from the regions above and the number from each of those regions in brackets. Winner gets the golden ticket.

Ok, so that’s the process. However, a few other changes and curve balls next year too….

Team GB Qualification

I haven’t mentioned GB to this point, as it would have confused things. In short, it looks like England will be the nominated team next season to try to gain an automatic spot for GB by getting in the top 4.

That means if Wales or Scotland achieves that, they cannot take their slot – only England getting top 4 counts. It also doesn’t mean that an England side would then represent GB. It merely acts as a tool to try to get GB a spot at Rio.

If England DO NOT achieve a top 4 finish then GB will have to qualify via a European competition.

With the possibility that France could roll out their 15s test stars in that with their best 7s players, as well as the threat of sides like Spain, Russia and Portugal, in potentially a one off tournament - this is by no means a straightforward route and there is a real threat of no Great Britain team being in Rio.

Team GB and the process around that has not been publicly confirmed, so we are all in the dark around it. England have put more of a development spin on their programme this season, but with the hopes of the other nations with them achieving top 4, that might have to be re looked at. If they do what they did this season then the combined home nations can breath a huge sigh of relief but if not….

It is all very interesting – throw Wales and Scotland potentially helping the process by beating some of the other top 4 candidates next year and it’s a series not to be missed!

ELIGIBILITY.

As its Olympic Qualification next year, it means all players have to be qualified under Olympic eligibility rules and that means they have to have a passport for that nation. No exceptions. As you have seen with Halai’s exclusion from the NZ sevens side to compete at the Commonwealth Games (they have the same eligibility criteria), not everyone that has played international sevens also holds a passport for that country.

Qualifying on residency is a lot easier than getting a passport in nearly every competing country so there will be players next season that will not be able to play for their respective teams until they have a passport. Having seen at first hand the pacific players in other countries teams playing under residency criteria, it might now be the time to look at this globally and see whether three years is just too short a time frame to become eligible to play for another country. I haven’t got a firm opinion on this but targeted poaching happens in other Olympic sports and this whole area needs a careful eye kept on it to see how it develops.

SWITCHING NATIONS.

A ripple from this is a window that will also exist next year for players to effectively ‘switch’ countries back to a country they have a passport to.

Ill try to explain this as simply as possible, so:

If you haven’t played for 18 months for one of the “capped” teams in the nation you have already played for, AND hold a passport for another country then you can play in next year’s series for that country. Interestingly, once you make the switch, you are then available to be chosen for the nations XV’s test side too. You cannot switch back.

After this season, the 18 months will go up to 3 years and the switch can only happen in an Olympic qualifying event or the Olympics itself, so if you don’t do it next season then its not again possible until the actual Olympics.

If it I put this into a practical example, I will use Josh Drauniniu – sure you don’t mind Josh! Gets you some airtime!

He played for England 7s in 2011 and hasn’t played for any other national England sides since. He holds a Fijian Passport (as well as a UK one) as was born and raised in Fiji so would be eligible for me to select if I wanted to and he wanted to. He could then play for Fiji at national 15’s level. Let me just make clear that this is just an example and not a clever ploy to lure Josh to back to Fiji! I just know the timings in this example in this and it just illustrates the point and also shows you that players do exist out there in this category.

IRB Reg 9

Next year IRB Reg 9 is in place. This means that clubs must release players to participate in a HSBC World Series event. The IOC and IRB have publicly voiced their opinion that they want to see some of the 15s stars of the game playing in Rio and this is another helpful tool to allow the nations the possible ability to use them next year in preparation and to bolster their qualification chances.

In practice, it’s not quite as straight forward.

I do not think the clubs have been aware of this and I am sure they don’t want to lose key players for large part of the season. Now, if I was being devil’s advocate, it’s a bit like taking a banned substance you thought was ok and hadn’t read the label. It is not an excuse to simply say you were not aware as this change has been in the public domain for some time and some clubs will have prepared for this possibility when they singed players that were in this bracket.

Again the Pacific nations are the ones that would benefit the most out of this as there are large numbers playing overseas that have previously shown to be world-class players in international sevens. Nearly every Fijian star of the overseas club game has played huge amounts of 7s growing up and knows the game well, so the transition for them will be far easier than nearly every other nation as long as they are given some time to adjust and get the required fitness.

As National coach, I want to make sure Fiji are in the top four next year and have every opportunity to win a gold in Rio. Samoa will feel the same. Without the finances and other resources of our rivals, for Fiji and Samoa (and in the regionals, Tonga), this gives us the potential to have a tool that helps us balance that out a bit and I would sincerely hope that the rugby community sees that as well.

No one wants to risk a player’s livelihood but the opportunity to show just why rugby sevens is now an Olympic sport – that small countries with little resources can be up there fighting for a gold medal with the best talent they have, is possible.

Plenty to digest and goes to show you why next year is just that little bit different. I can see just as much action off the field as on it next year! Yet, the positives of ensuring Rugby, albeit in the sevens format, can be shown off in the best light possible to the rest of the sporting world in Rio is what needs to be in everyone’s mind. The reality of Rio will be soon upon us.

Source

Former England 7s coach and current Fiji Head Coach Ben Ryan has been entrenched in the process of Rugby 7s becoming an Olympic sport, today he looks at what that means, qualification, eligibility, player availability and just about everything you need to know about Rio Qualification

Next season is different.

The ‘soft’ opening to Rugby 7’s into the Olympics has been going on for some time as pundits and supporters gaze into the future to see what it might bring. For the teams on the ground and the players with ambitions to be walking beside their national flag on the opening ceremony at the Rio Olympics on August 6th 2016, it begins properly on the Gold Coast.

Qualification to be one of those dozen starts in Oz

So, with so many not clear about how everything comes together and some of the changes, I thought I would try my best to have some clarity here.

I say twelve but it’s actually eleven, as Brazil has gained automatic qualification as hosts. It doesn’t matter if you agree or don’t agree with that, that’s the status quo and so the first part of qualification begins with next year’s HSBC World Sevens Series.

The top four at the end of the 2014/15 series are straight through to Rio and though it hasn’t be confirmed, it would be logical to also seed those teams as the top four for the Olympic Competition. That means plenty of jostling between those positions to get top seed status, which would probably also mean for number one seeds sharing a group with the bottom seeds, again, not confirmed but likely to be Brazil.

Making that top four will be huge for those sides. It allows planning and none of the pressure that undoubtedly will come with the next stage of qualification;

Six of the remaining spots will be decided through the regional competitions, split as:

Asia (3)

Europe (4)

Oceania (2)

Africa (3)

North America (2)

South America (2)

That leaves one spot, which will be decided, from a 16-nation repechage tournament with the teams made up from the regions above and the number from each of those regions in brackets. Winner gets the golden ticket.

Ok, so that’s the process. However, a few other changes and curve balls next year too….

Team GB Qualification

I haven’t mentioned GB to this point, as it would have confused things. In short, it looks like England will be the nominated team next season to try to gain an automatic spot for GB by getting in the top 4.

That means if Wales or Scotland achieves that, they cannot take their slot – only England getting top 4 counts. It also doesn’t mean that an England side would then represent GB. It merely acts as a tool to try to get GB a spot at Rio.

If England DO NOT achieve a top 4 finish then GB will have to qualify via a European competition.

With the possibility that France could roll out their 15s test stars in that with their best 7s players, as well as the threat of sides like Spain, Russia and Portugal, in potentially a one off tournament - this is by no means a straightforward route and there is a real threat of no Great Britain team being in Rio.

Team GB and the process around that has not been publicly confirmed, so we are all in the dark around it. England have put more of a development spin on their programme this season, but with the hopes of the other nations with them achieving top 4, that might have to be re looked at. If they do what they did this season then the combined home nations can breath a huge sigh of relief but if not….

It is all very interesting – throw Wales and Scotland potentially helping the process by beating some of the other top 4 candidates next year and it’s a series not to be missed!

ELIGIBILITY.

As its Olympic Qualification next year, it means all players have to be qualified under Olympic eligibility rules and that means they have to have a passport for that nation. No exceptions. As you have seen with Halai’s exclusion from the NZ sevens side to compete at the Commonwealth Games (they have the same eligibility criteria), not everyone that has played international sevens also holds a passport for that country.

Qualifying on residency is a lot easier than getting a passport in nearly every competing country so there will be players next season that will not be able to play for their respective teams until they have a passport. Having seen at first hand the pacific players in other countries teams playing under residency criteria, it might now be the time to look at this globally and see whether three years is just too short a time frame to become eligible to play for another country. I haven’t got a firm opinion on this but targeted poaching happens in other Olympic sports and this whole area needs a careful eye kept on it to see how it develops.

SWITCHING NATIONS.

A ripple from this is a window that will also exist next year for players to effectively ‘switch’ countries back to a country they have a passport to.

Ill try to explain this as simply as possible, so:

If you haven’t played for 18 months for one of the “capped” teams in the nation you have already played for, AND hold a passport for another country then you can play in next year’s series for that country. Interestingly, once you make the switch, you are then available to be chosen for the nations XV’s test side too. You cannot switch back.

After this season, the 18 months will go up to 3 years and the switch can only happen in an Olympic qualifying event or the Olympics itself, so if you don’t do it next season then its not again possible until the actual Olympics.

If it I put this into a practical example, I will use Josh Drauniniu – sure you don’t mind Josh! Gets you some airtime!

He played for England 7s in 2011 and hasn’t played for any other national England sides since. He holds a Fijian Passport (as well as a UK one) as was born and raised in Fiji so would be eligible for me to select if I wanted to and he wanted to. He could then play for Fiji at national 15’s level. Let me just make clear that this is just an example and not a clever ploy to lure Josh to back to Fiji! I just know the timings in this example in this and it just illustrates the point and also shows you that players do exist out there in this category.

IRB Reg 9

Next year IRB Reg 9 is in place. This means that clubs must release players to participate in a HSBC World Series event. The IOC and IRB have publicly voiced their opinion that they want to see some of the 15s stars of the game playing in Rio and this is another helpful tool to allow the nations the possible ability to use them next year in preparation and to bolster their qualification chances.

In practice, it’s not quite as straight forward.

I do not think the clubs have been aware of this and I am sure they don’t want to lose key players for large part of the season. Now, if I was being devil’s advocate, it’s a bit like taking a banned substance you thought was ok and hadn’t read the label. It is not an excuse to simply say you were not aware as this change has been in the public domain for some time and some clubs will have prepared for this possibility when they singed players that were in this bracket.

Again the Pacific nations are the ones that would benefit the most out of this as there are large numbers playing overseas that have previously shown to be world-class players in international sevens. Nearly every Fijian star of the overseas club game has played huge amounts of 7s growing up and knows the game well, so the transition for them will be far easier than nearly every other nation as long as they are given some time to adjust and get the required fitness.

As National coach, I want to make sure Fiji are in the top four next year and have every opportunity to win a gold in Rio. Samoa will feel the same. Without the finances and other resources of our rivals, for Fiji and Samoa (and in the regionals, Tonga), this gives us the potential to have a tool that helps us balance that out a bit and I would sincerely hope that the rugby community sees that as well.

No one wants to risk a player’s livelihood but the opportunity to show just why rugby sevens is now an Olympic sport – that small countries with little resources can be up there fighting for a gold medal with the best talent they have, is possible.

Plenty to digest and goes to show you why next year is just that little bit different. I can see just as much action off the field as on it next year! Yet, the positives of ensuring Rugby, albeit in the sevens format, can be shown off in the best light possible to the rest of the sporting world in Rio is what needs to be in everyone’s mind. The reality of Rio will be soon upon us.

- See more at: http://ur7s.com/news/ben-ryan-goes-inside-olympic-rugby-sevens-and-talks-qualification-eligibility-player-availability-and-just-about-everything-you-need-to-know-#sthash.bSgXfp3O.dpuf

Former England 7s coach and current Fiji Head Coach Ben Ryan has been entrenched in the process of Rugby 7s becoming an Olympic sport, today he looks at what that means, qualification, eligibility, player availability and just about everything you need to know about Rio Qualification

Next season is different.

The ‘soft’ opening to Rugby 7’s into the Olympics has been going on for some time as pundits and supporters gaze into the future to see what it might bring. For the teams on the ground and the players with ambitions to be walking beside their national flag on the opening ceremony at the Rio Olympics on August 6th 2016, it begins properly on the Gold Coast.

Qualification to be one of those dozen starts in Oz

So, with so many not clear about how everything comes together and some of the changes, I thought I would try my best to have some clarity here.

I say twelve but it’s actually eleven, as Brazil has gained automatic qualification as hosts. It doesn’t matter if you agree or don’t agree with that, that’s the status quo and so the first part of qualification begins with next year’s HSBC World Sevens Series.

The top four at the end of the 2014/15 series are straight through to Rio and though it hasn’t be confirmed, it would be logical to also seed those teams as the top four for the Olympic Competition. That means plenty of jostling between those positions to get top seed status, which would probably also mean for number one seeds sharing a group with the bottom seeds, again, not confirmed but likely to be Brazil.

Making that top four will be huge for those sides. It allows planning and none of the pressure that undoubtedly will come with the next stage of qualification;

Six of the remaining spots will be decided through the regional competitions, split as:

Asia (3)

Europe (4)

Oceania (2)

Africa (3)

North America (2)

South America (2)

That leaves one spot, which will be decided, from a 16-nation repechage tournament with the teams made up from the regions above and the number from each of those regions in brackets. Winner gets the golden ticket.

Ok, so that’s the process. However, a few other changes and curve balls next year too….

Team GB Qualification

I haven’t mentioned GB to this point, as it would have confused things. In short, it looks like England will be the nominated team next season to try to gain an automatic spot for GB by getting in the top 4.

That means if Wales or Scotland achieves that, they cannot take their slot – only England getting top 4 counts. It also doesn’t mean that an England side would then represent GB. It merely acts as a tool to try to get GB a spot at Rio.

If England DO NOT achieve a top 4 finish then GB will have to qualify via a European competition.

With the possibility that France could roll out their 15s test stars in that with their best 7s players, as well as the threat of sides like Spain, Russia and Portugal, in potentially a one off tournament - this is by no means a straightforward route and there is a real threat of no Great Britain team being in Rio.

Team GB and the process around that has not been publicly confirmed, so we are all in the dark around it. England have put more of a development spin on their programme this season, but with the hopes of the other nations with them achieving top 4, that might have to be re looked at. If they do what they did this season then the combined home nations can breath a huge sigh of relief but if not….

It is all very interesting – throw Wales and Scotland potentially helping the process by beating some of the other top 4 candidates next year and it’s a series not to be missed!

ELIGIBILITY.

As its Olympic Qualification next year, it means all players have to be qualified under Olympic eligibility rules and that means they have to have a passport for that nation. No exceptions. As you have seen with Halai’s exclusion from the NZ sevens side to compete at the Commonwealth Games (they have the same eligibility criteria), not everyone that has played international sevens also holds a passport for that country.

Qualifying on residency is a lot easier than getting a passport in nearly every competing country so there will be players next season that will not be able to play for their respective teams until they have a passport. Having seen at first hand the pacific players in other countries teams playing under residency criteria, it might now be the time to look at this globally and see whether three years is just too short a time frame to become eligible to play for another country. I haven’t got a firm opinion on this but targeted poaching happens in other Olympic sports and this whole area needs a careful eye kept on it to see how it develops.

SWITCHING NATIONS.

A ripple from this is a window that will also exist next year for players to effectively ‘switch’ countries back to a country they have a passport to.

Ill try to explain this as simply as possible, so:

If you haven’t played for 18 months for one of the “capped” teams in the nation you have already played for, AND hold a passport for another country then you can play in next year’s series for that country. Interestingly, once you make the switch, you are then available to be chosen for the nations XV’s test side too. You cannot switch back.

After this season, the 18 months will go up to 3 years and the switch can only happen in an Olympic qualifying event or the Olympics itself, so if you don’t do it next season then its not again possible until the actual Olympics.

If it I put this into a practical example, I will use Josh Drauniniu – sure you don’t mind Josh! Gets you some airtime!

He played for England 7s in 2011 and hasn’t played for any other national England sides since. He holds a Fijian Passport (as well as a UK one) as was born and raised in Fiji so would be eligible for me to select if I wanted to and he wanted to. He could then play for Fiji at national 15’s level. Let me just make clear that this is just an example and not a clever ploy to lure Josh to back to Fiji! I just know the timings in this example in this and it just illustrates the point and also shows you that players do exist out there in this category.

IRB Reg 9

Next year IRB Reg 9 is in place. This means that clubs must release players to participate in a HSBC World Series event. The IOC and IRB have publicly voiced their opinion that they want to see some of the 15s stars of the game playing in Rio and this is another helpful tool to allow the nations the possible ability to use them next year in preparation and to bolster their qualification chances.

In practice, it’s not quite as straight forward.

I do not think the clubs have been aware of this and I am sure they don’t want to lose key players for large part of the season. Now, if I was being devil’s advocate, it’s a bit like taking a banned substance you thought was ok and hadn’t read the label. It is not an excuse to simply say you were not aware as this change has been in the public domain for some time and some clubs will have prepared for this possibility when they singed players that were in this bracket.

Again the Pacific nations are the ones that would benefit the most out of this as there are large numbers playing overseas that have previously shown to be world-class players in international sevens. Nearly every Fijian star of the overseas club game has played huge amounts of 7s growing up and knows the game well, so the transition for them will be far easier than nearly every other nation as long as they are given some time to adjust and get the required fitness.

As National coach, I want to make sure Fiji are in the top four next year and have every opportunity to win a gold in Rio. Samoa will feel the same. Without the finances and other resources of our rivals, for Fiji and Samoa (and in the regionals, Tonga), this gives us the potential to have a tool that helps us balance that out a bit and I would sincerely hope that the rugby community sees that as well.

No one wants to risk a player’s livelihood but the opportunity to show just why rugby sevens is now an Olympic sport – that small countries with little resources can be up there fighting for a gold medal with the best talent they have, is possible.

Plenty to digest and goes to show you why next year is just that little bit different. I can see just as much action off the field as on it next year! Yet, the positives of ensuring Rugby, albeit in the sevens format, can be shown off in the best light possible to the rest of the sporting world in Rio is what needs to be in everyone’s mind. The reality of Rio will be soon upon us.

- See more at: http://ur7s.com/news/ben-ryan-goes-inside-olympic-rugby-sevens-and-talks-qualification-eligibility-player-availability-and-just-about-everything-you-need-to-know-#sthash.bSgXfp3O.dpuf