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IRB suspends funding of Fiji rugby

January 11, 2014

All financial support to the Fiji Rugby Union has been suspended because of concerns over the union’s financial reporting, administration and governance, the International Rugby Board confirmed on Saturday.

The decision was “reluctantly made after the union failed to implement recommended measures to provide assurances to the IRB that it was appropriately moving to address significant concerns,” the IRB said in a statement.

The recommended changes to the FRU’s administration and financial management followed a review carried out by the IRB after Fiji appealed in May for emergency financial assistance.

The IRB said the financial position of the FRU was unsustainable “and could create instability and impact on the management of the union and key IRB-funded development and high-performance programs.”

“The IRB committed 1 million British pounds ($3.3 million Fiji dollars) in direct funding the Fiji Rugby Union in 2013 and significant additional financial assistance to participate in international tournaments in 2013,” the IRB statement said.

“The IRB remains committed to rugby in Fiji and the performance of the men’s and women’s national 15s and sevens teams and will work closely with the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions and the Fiji Rugby Union to ensure that all administration and governance reforms are delivered and funding is reinstated.”

News of the funding suspension was broken by the Fiji investigative website Fijileaks, which said Fijian rugby was facing it’s “gravest crisis.” The website linked the IRB action to interference in the affairs of the FRU by the country’s military regime headed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Fijileaks said the FRU was due to announce next week that publisher Jeremy Duxbury would be its next chief executive. But it said Bainimarama had rejected Duxbury’s appointment and ordered the union to readvertise the position, negating an appointment process which began in September.

Fijileaks said “the Bainimarama government’s explicit involvement in running the FRU has been nothing short of a disaster.

“It dates back to January 2011 when then sports minister Filipe Bole confirmed the FRU would receive F$3 million of government funding for the 2011 Rugby World Cup but only on the condition the elected board of the FRU resigned before the terms expired and faced new elections.”

The IRB was also reportedly concerned that Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan, the former England coach, has not been paid for three months.

Fiji’s acting chief exectuive, Berlin Kafoa, said on Friday that Ryan had agreed to forego payment for the first three months after his appointment because he understood the union’s financial position.

Kafoa said the union will receive a grant of $300,000 from the Fiji Sports Commission to cover Ryan’s salary.

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