The financially strapped Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) received a much-needed shot in the arm on Wednesday night when the nation pledged more than $350,000 to help.
The money was raised during a Radiothon held at the S.T.A Fale and screened live on TV1.
It was not possible to get a comment from Chief Executive Officer of S.R.U, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i, yesterday.
When the Radiothon ended though, it was announced on TV that the money pledged had reached $354,000.
This included a donation of $160,000 from a Chinese company, Shanghai Construction. Other top donations included $30,000 from Ott family as well as $20,000 and $10,000 lots donated by individuals and other companies.
The radiothon followed the public declaration by the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi that the Union is “insolvent.”
The money therefore will help pay for the insurance of Manu Samoa players who are in Europe for their Northern Hemisphere tour, which starts against Scotland on Sunday morning.
It will also be used to pay the salary of coach, Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua. His appointment has been questioned by World Rugby after the S.R.U. rejected the recommendation by the Selection Panel and picked the seventh ranked Fuimaono for the job.
According to a spokesperson of Shanghai Construction Company, they were to present their pledge $160,000 to the Union yesterday.
Shanghai Construction Group Project Coordinator, Amanda Yuan, said they were only too happy to help the Union as it is their way of giving back to Samoa.
“Our help towards the Samoa Rugby Union’s fundraising is part of our gratitude and appreciation to the government and the people of Samoa,” Ms. Yuan said.
“The Shanghai Construction Company understands that rugby carries the pride of the Samoan people as well as the national sport of the country.”
Ms. Yuan also said their financial help towards the Samoa Rugby Union reflected their experience since their arrival.
“We have been here in Samoa for almost 10 years now and the government and people of Samoa have been so good to us and so friendly, so this small help is to let them know their hospitality to us is something big and we are not taking it lightly.”
The Union also received more good news yesterday with the English Rugby Union pledging US$100,000 (T$250,000) from the proceeds of the upcoming test match between the two countries at Twickenham. This does not include donations pledged by individual English players to their counterparts.
Speaking at the opening of the Radiothon, Tuilaepa noted that while Samoa’s rugby has not delivered enlightening results, it is the nature of the sport.
“Compared to powerful and resourceful rugby nations with the financial capacities complemented by millions in pool players to select their national sides, Samoa’s meager population of a little over 180,000 to pick our best cannot compete,” he said.
“On that note, I commend our overseas based players who have put country before money by committing to play and represent Samoa not only in rugby but in rugby league and other sports disciplines.
“You only need to look at the Tongan representative team competing in the Rugby League World Cup.
“The Tongan players have sacrificed their lucrative salaries to take time out from their New Zealand and Australian Clubs to put their country first.”
The Prime Minister pointed out that despite the S.R.U.’s financial dilemma it is not stopping the union from moving forward with chances that include a slight increase in allowances for players.
“Retaining our players is a crucial component to the SRU’s long term investment to have our best players available to represent Samoa,” said Tuilaepa.
“We are a Union with endless financial tension that is continuously in the public arena, and haunted by its past failures and at times we have copped unfair and scathing criticism.”