Fiji and Samoa square off during the 2018 Pacific Nations Cup. Photo: Facebook/Fiji Rugby
15 AUGUST 2018: The Pacific Rugby Players Welfare has launched a campaign to address what they call the under representation of Pacific nations on the World Rugby Council.
The campaign “Seats At The Table” is fronted by former Manu Samoa lock Daniel Leo in the lead up to the World Rugby Council meeting next month and is causing concern within the Samoa Rugby Union.
Chief Executive Officer of SRU, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i says the campaign may jeopardise Samoa’s efforts to win a seat in next months’ meeting of the World Rugby.
Fepulea’i pointed out that the increase in diversity on the Board in the overhaul of the SRU constitution are among many huge positives in the application for Samoan Rugby and they are excited about the future ahead.
“We acknowledge that Dan being a former player of Manu Samoa has the best intentions when voicing his concerns, but the issue is his lack of knowledge of environment we operate, what is positive are already happening and not having the true facts,” said Fepulea’i.
Daniel Leo said World Rugby needs to overhaul a system which gives a disproportionate amount of influence to a select few while others effectively miss out.
Fiji, Samoa and Tonga have no direct representation on the Council while Oceania Rugby, which represents 12 countries, including New Zealand and Australia, holds just two of the 48 votes around the top table.
“They like everyone to believe that they’re doing enough for the Pacific Islands – our argument is they aren’t,” he said.
To be eligible, unions need to be in good standing with World Rugby and be able to demonstrate good governance practice, including a fully applied constitution, bylaws and regulations and five years of unqualified audited accounts and AGM minutes.
The Samoa Rugby Union said it has clean audits for four years, revamped its Constitution and has done all to lift its governance to the level expected by World Rugby hence its push for a seat to join Fiji and Papua New Guinea already there.
But Samoa’s case could have already been jeopardized. Chairman and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said this hard work maybe jeopardized already by the recent incident where a Samoan Sevens player awaits trial for assault on three Welsh players during the recent World Cup Sevens in San Francisco.
Daniel Leo acknowledged governance remained a challenge in the region but argued World Rugby should be offering more support.
“I think we’re starting to see that a bit with Fiji where they’re stepping in and the old saying goes: ‘If a man’s hungry don’t give him a fish, teach him how to fish’ and actually we need that to happen through World Rugby,” he said.
“We need them to actually come in and provide those steps and guidance for our unions to be able to qualify for seats at this table.
“We’d like to get to the point where actually the whole system is revamped – not just a token seat given to the Pacific Islands but we’d actually like to see equity for all tier two nations across the board.
“At the moment it stands you’ve got countries that have got three full votes out of 48 and then you’ve got countries like the Pacific Islands who have got less than a third of a vote each.
“The disparity is too great and we actually need to bring that to a point similar to…football: one country gets one vote.”