Rugby’s gate sharing like Roman Coliseum days where the entertainers are fed to the lions

By Staff Reporters

Source: Press Secretariat

APIA, SAMOA – TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER 2017: Rugby Unions current gate sharing where the host Union takes all is being compared “to the Roman Coliseum days where the entertainers are fed to the lions.”

This is according to the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in an interview with the government newspaper, Savali where he discussed the SRU’s financial problems and criticisms from World Rugby.

He said the financial problems of smaller unions like Samoa, Tonga and Fiji can possibly be helped with fairness in gate sharing.

“When we tour England and play against their teams, the stadiums are at full capacity earning millions of pounds for the host Union and Manu Samoa gets hardly anything in return. Why? The gate sharing since the amateur days is still current where the host Union takes all.

“World Rugby Smaller Unions like Manu Samoa, Tonga and Fiji are expected to play up to their standards to fatten their bank accounts at our expense.

“This is like being back again in the Roman Coliseum days where the entertainers are fed to the lions.

“Samoa, Fiji and Tonga provide the entertainment.  If the gate sharing is not changed, the poorer unions cannot afford to continue on playing under these circumstances,” said Tuilaepa. 

Last week, World Rugby rejected claims by Tuilaepa that SRU was bankrupt and cannot pay players insurance saying it had contributed about $3million to Samoa rugby this year. 

Tuilaepa working with the Samoa Rugby Unions CEO, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai

Tuilaepa said that SRU’s financial position has gotten worse with the latest threat by World Rugby to cut their contribution due to their displeasure with certain decisions by the Samoa Rugby Union over the appointments of our Head coaches for the Rugby 15 and Rugby Sevens.

SRU’s annual budget is close to $11 million Samoan Tala. World Rugby funds about $4.6 million Tala and SRU bears the major balance of the budget from its own fundraising which include sponsorship from our Government and two local companies. The deficit is funded by bank loans.

“If these Commercial Banks were to call up payment, we have no choice but to fold. Our loans are unsecured and we are operating from leased property owned by the Samoa Land Corporation,” said Tuilaepa.

We have been dependent on bank financing for the last 3 years and the figures are available in our Annual Accounts which have clean audit opinions, copies of which have been submitted to WR for their records.  So we are talking about hard real issues backed by our financial record.

SRU not a rubber stamp
The SRU’s dispute with World Rugby stemmed from the appointment of the current Head Coach Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua where the SRU Board rejected the recommendation of the Interview Panel. World Rugby ad a representative on the panel.

“Of the 7 shortlisted candidates interviewed, the Panel overlooked Fuimaono who was the best of the applicants in terms of performance. Fuimaono was our Head Coach when Manu Samoa beat the Wallabies in 2011. The Wallabies then was one of the top two Tier 1 teams in the world,” said Tuilaepa.

“From the communications with WR their view is that the SRU should only be a rubber stamp.  That is to approve whatever a Sub-Committee recommends.  We disagreed.

“Indeed we attach importance to Coach Performance on the field.  In a small country where rugby is popular, the public is most vocal when its rugby team does not perform.  And the Board has to bear all the bad publicity from the fans.  We are answerable to our public and sponsors who fund over 60% of our Budget.

Captain of the Manu Samoa current Northern Hemisphere tour, Chris Vui and Vice Captain Paul Perez

World Rugby was also not happy when they first learnt of the appointment when leaked to the media. Tuilaepa feels World Rugby gives extraordinary attention to this issue of the news leakage to embarrass this Union.

But the financial demise of smaller unions continue despite efforts such as an initiative early this year where the representatives of three Unions, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga met with Hon. Murray McCully with the NZ Rugby Union Chairman and CEO.

“The purpose was to see how financial help can be organized for our Unions.  The statements made by the NZ Union Officials emphasized the commercial viability principles for each Union which means there was absolutely NO help forthcoming,” said Tuilaepa.

Also several years ago, Tuilaepa received from PM John Key of New Zealand a commitment of NZ$10 million to help Rugby and Netball for Fiji, Tonga and Samoa.

“I was excited that this welcomed assistance will help our cash-strapped Rugby Unions. I discovered later that the NZ Government had handed the money over to the NZ Rugby Union to spend as they see fit on projects they consider helpful to our rugby and netball.  That means the money is again spent to provide jobs for their own boys.”

“For these past three years of improved management and financial reforms, we have managed to pay all our expenses and fulfilled all our obligations to participate at WR sanctioned events, paid all the players allowances and have no more complaints. World Rugby should be fully aware of these developments.

“It should be noted that our Board members are all volunteers. They do not receive any monetary payments for their services.

Manu Samoa’s David Lemi in a previous encounter with England Photo: Getty Images

The Union also has a small administration staff of seven employees who worked to deliver a successful hosting of the 2015 All Blacks/Manu Samoa match in Apia – “a factor which caused some surprise to the NZRU officials whether we were serious. But what can we do with the kind of budget we operate on?” said Tuilaepa.

Why is Manu Samoa so important to World Rugby?
“Our brand of Island Rugby played by Samoa, Fiji and Tonga generates excitement to the public.  And from small countries with smaller population that in themselves creates added interest in the sense, any match against a bigger Union with a lot of resources is a replay of the great encounter between David and Goliath.  We provide good entertainment any time we tour Europe.”