Saturday
November 22, 2014
Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Castillo’s tenure comes to an end

By Frankie Deges
Rugby column

As farewell gifts go, Los Pampas XV win at the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup was fitting. On Sunday morning, Luis Castillo woke up to the good news that the team had won the tournament to which they had been invited to play in Australia. The Tucumán-born President of the Argentine Rugby Union from December 2009 who retires on March 31, must have celebrated in style.

After four years leading rugby in the country, he can return to his province knowing he did a good job. “I do carry a heavy backpack,” he said. Back in 2012 it was discovered that two dishonest employees (one of them had left the UAR by then) had stolen some three million pesos. “I had to sit in front of a judge. I never thought that I’d have to do this as a President of the Rugby Union,” he told a room full of journalists last Wednesday as he recalled his four years in the top chair.

Although it has since been proven that no official or other employees were involved and the wait is now the judicial system to make its statement, Castillo’s presidency was much more than this. Being the first President to come from a provincial union other than Buenos Aires, he enjoyed a lot of success.

In this period, the number of players grew to almost 130,000; there are more tournaments and the UAR runs the Nacional de Clubes which had its second round of games this Saturday, the Torneo del Interior (for clubs outside the Buenos Aires RU) the National Provincial Championship (Campeonato Argentino) and the last event of the season: the Seven de la República.

International competition grew, the Pampas XV were born to play in South Africa’s Vodacom Cup four times before winning the Pacific Rugby Cup. Of course, inclusion in the Rugby Championship has meant Los Pumas have regular competition against three of the best teams in the world and play 12 test-matches each season.

High performance centres and academies also grew in quantity and quality. Nowadays, 86 per cent of the players are territorially located in a way they can be included in the UAR HP plans.

There has been big growth in budgets. “We had 13 sponsors that brought 15 million pesos in 2010; today we have 24 that generate 60 million,” said Castillo. “Of that early budget of 20 million in 2010 we now have 116 million, a clear indication of our growth. We are self-funded as the International Rugby Board only gives us five per cent of our budget. Our events earn 41% of our income, five percent comes from the IRB and the remaining 54 per cent coming from sponsors and television rights.”

Last season, 17.5 million pesos were invested in grassroots rugby — 39 percent went to development and 61 per cent to competition. As departing UAR Council Member Agustín Pichot asked aloud: “Which other sporting institutions in Argentina can show healthy financial statements?”

Castillo thanked former Puma captain Pichot “for all his effort and dedication during his tenure.” Thanks to Pichot, Argentina entered the Rugby Championship and is close to securing a place in Super Rugby.

Next Monday, Castillo will hand over the presidency to Carlos Araujo, who will run Argentine rugby for four years.

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