World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont has expressed his gratitude and says that he is “honoured and humbled” after being awarded the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire for services to rugby on the international stage in His Majesty The King’s New Year’s Honours list.
The honour is in recognition of a lifetime spent in service to the betterment of rugby on and off the field for Beaumont and follows the awarding of a Knighthood in the New Year’s Honours list in 2018. The Knight Grand Cross is the highest rank in the Most Excellent Order of The British Empire.
Recognition comes at an exciting and important time for Beaumont and the sport. Elected Chairman of World Rugby in 2016, Beaumont wasted no time in acting on his mandate in cementing rugby as an accessible, relevant and player welfare-led sport. Now in his second term, he has presided over a period of global growth and advancement, particularly among young people and women in emerging rugby nations, and in new and accessible formats of the game reaching new audiences. Much of this has been achieved against the unprecedented challenge of the global coronavirus pandemic.
Determined to ensure the strong foundations are in place to support a growing global game, Beaumont has driven transformational governance reform that has seen an expansion of national union, region, gender and player inclusivity across the sport’s highest decision-making body, the World Rugby Council and its committee structures.
An expansionist, Beaumont has also presided over record-breaking and transformational men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups in Japan (2019), New Zealand (2022) and France (2023) respectively. He has also presided over reform of the Rugby World Cup hosting model, paving the way for greater long-term financial certainty, and confirming the expansion of the women’s Rugby World Cup from 12 to 16 teams at the 2025 edition in England; and from 20 to 24 teams at the next men’s edition in Australia in 2027.
The most recent achievement came towards the end of 2023, rugby’s 200th anniversary year, with confirmation of long-term international calendar harmony and new competition structures that provided greater opportunity for emerging nations, while providing financial certainty for all unions. As a former player with a passion for grassroots rugby, key decisions have been taken with player welfare and wellbeing at heart, with advancements in head injury research, management and prevention viewed as sport-leading.
A family and rugby man through and through, World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Beaumont can often be found at his beloved Fylde Rugby Club or watching son Josh play for Sale Sharks. He has always championed the community game and has made it his mission as Chairman of World Rugby and formerly as Chairman of the RFU to make the sport as accessible and relevant to play and support as possible at all levels.
For many fans Beaumont is best-known for his playing exploits. He made his debut for England in 1975, going on to win 34 caps and leading England to their first Grand Slam for 33 years in 1980. He also captained the British and Irish Lions and later managed them on the tour to New Zealand in 2005.
Beaumont said: “I am humbled and honoured to receive this accolade from His Majesty the King. I have always viewed my work as a rugby administrator as that of a guardian, driven by a passion to do the very best I can for rugby, its players, fans, and all those who give up their time to volunteer at grassroots level around the world. This accolade is as much recognition for our rugby family as a whole, and all who work tirelessly in the sport, as it is for me.
“Rugby has been my life for more than half a century and has given me so much joy as a player, a father and grandfather to rugby-playing sons and a granddaughter, and as an administrator. I am very fortunate to be in a position to give back to the sport I love, and I am as passionate now about rugby now as I was when representing Fylde, Lancashire, England or the British and Irish Lions.
"Rugby continues to transform, progress and advance as a sport and a movement and I am proud of what we have achieved in recent years. From exceptional men’s and women’s Rugby World Cups and historic international calendar transformation to the exciting advancement of the women’s game, we will never stand still in making the sport the best it can be to all its participants and fans. To that end, I am particularly proud of the strong progress we have made in the priority area of player welfare and I remain unswerving in my commitment to making rugby even more safe, accessible and relevant. We are on a very exciting journey with a very bright future.
“I have said it many times – in my opinion, rugby is the ultimate team sport – a sport with strong values and where the team is always greater than the individual. I have been blessed to have played and worked with incredible people along the way who share the same passion for the betterment of the sport as I do. There is one person who has been at my side, a constant support from my playing days to now, my wife Hilary. She is my inspiration and rock.”
Beaumont was awarded a Knighthood in 2018, having previously been appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2008 and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1982. He is also Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire.