APIA, SAMOA – FRIDAY 09 NOVEMBER 2017: World Rugby has denied claims from Samoa’s Prime Minister that the country’s rugby union team cannot afford to insure its players.
Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union (SRU), announced a day before a fundraising radiothon for the Rugby Union in Apia this week that the organisation is “insolvent”.
He also said that there was no money to pay for player insurance and the Head Coach’s salary ahead of matches against Scotland at Murrayfield this Sunday and England at Twickenham two weeks later.
However, a World Rugby statement, said the sport’s governing body had increased their indirect investment in the SRU’s high-performance programme to about $3 million in 2017.
“Specifically for the November window, this support package includes insurance cover under Regulation 9, underwriting assembly costs for a pre-tour camp, flights to and from Europe and participation in the Americas Pacific Challenge, a preparation and development tournament,” the statement said.
Tuilaepa said SRU was insolvent and asked for the public support which collected about US$150,000 in cash and pledges to help pay the Unions debts and players.
“It means the union cannot continue to pay off our debts with the banks. We also need money to pay the players so they can continue to play,” he said.
The Manu Samoa team is preparing to play against Scotland tomorrow in its first test of the Northern hemisphere tour and Team Manager, Aloi Alesana, however, said wages were still being paid on time.
“We are getting paid and we have everything we need. No one is worried,” he told Reuters.
“We have very nice food and great facilities here [in the team hotel]. Actually the food is a bit too nice. We’re looking forward to the game. No one is worried about this.”
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said it was concerning to see Samoa Rugby experiencing difficult times.
“We never like to see any of our fellow Pacific rugby nations face these sorts of challenges, and while we will continue to support Samoa as best we can, particularly through programmes such as the Pacific Sporting Partnership, the issues are complex,” Tew said in a statement.
“For now, World Rugby is working closely with Samoa to resolve their issues, and comments are best left to come from them.”
England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) will generate around $20 million when England host Samoa on 25 November and, under World Rugby rules, they are under no obligation to share gate receipts with visiting test sides.
The RFU will compensate Samoa to the tune of $150,000. All on-the-ground costs for visiting teams are also covered.
Samoa rarely host the biggest rugby nations and when they do, cheap tickets and small stadiums generate very low gate receipts compared to big rugby nations.
The players match fees also differ significantly. While England’s players will earn $44,000 each from the RFU, their Samoan counterparts will earn just $1300 from the same match.
The imbalance has prompted England prop Mako Vunipola to suggest each home player donates at least $2000 of their match fee to their Samoan opponents.
There is no professional club rugby in Samoa, Fiji or Tonga, and hundreds of their players ply their trade for clubs in Europe, Australia and New Zealand as a result, with many eventually opting to switch nationality.
Fiji are ranked ninth in the world, Tonga 13th and both have qualified for the 2019 World Cup in Japan. Samoa is ranked 16th and has yet to qualify.