IRB pulls the plug on Fiji
IRB pulls the plug on FijiSHARE
Fiji is facing the biggest crisis in it history, after the International Rugby Board pulled the financial plug on the Pacific Island nation.
Government interference and a lack of financial accountability are at the heart of the IRB's decision – confirmed in a statement issued on Saturday.
Late last week Fiji confirmed that high-profile Sevens coach Ben Ryan has gone the past three months without pay.
Ryan took on the Fijian Sevens job in September, but is yet to be paid by the cash-strapped Fiji Rugby Union.
At the heart of the matter is the F$3 million (US$1.9 million) funding paid by the IRB to the FRU – put on a stop notice, seemingly because of government interference.
The Fijian investigative website Fijileaks says the FRU ("commandeered by Frank Bainimarama's administration in the lead-in to the 2011 World Cup") is facing its gravest crisis after the IRB suspended the FRU's annual development grant, with Bainimarama deepening the crisis by rejecting the FRU board's preferred candidate for the vacant position of Chief Executive Officer, leaving the organisation leaderless.
The F$3m payment is vital to the union, as it outweighs its biggest and just completed sponsorship deal, thought to be worth F$2.5m.
According to Fijileaks, FRU officials have admitted they will have to re-advertise the position of CEO, restarting a process that started in September.
Fijileaks claimed publisher Jeremy Duxbury had been selected as the FRU's preferred CEO but, when his name was submitted before Christmas, Bainimarama rejected it.
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$3m of government funding for the 2011 World Cup but only on the condition the elected board of the FRU resigned before the terms had expired and faced new elections."
The IRB statement in full: The International Rugby Board has confirmed that it is to suspend all direct financial support to the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) with immediate effect until the Union adopts key financial reporting, administration and governance reforms.
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 regarding the administration and governance of the Union. The recommendations arose from an IRB Major Union Review which was conducted after the Union requested emergency financial assistance in May last year.
The IRB and the FORU Regional Association have formally expressed concerns that the financial position of the Union is unsustainable and could create instability and impact on the management of the Union and key IRB-funded development and high performance programmes.
The IRB committed £1.1million (FJ$3.3million) in direct funding to the FRU in 2013 and significant additional financial assistance to participate in international tournaments in 2013.
The IRB remains committed to Rugby in Fiji and the performance of the men’s and women’s national Fifteens and Sevens teams and will work closely with FORU and the FRU to ensure that all administration and governance reforms are delivered and funding is reinstated.