World Rugby has rejected claims by the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) and Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, that the Union is “bankrupt.”
It did this is in a strongly worded statement issued in response to a recent barrage of verbal attacks from Prime Minister Tuilaepa where he accused World Rugby of trying “to embarrass” Samoa.
“World Rugby can clarify that the union is not bankrupt and would also like to clarify the inaccurate statements made by the S.R.U. Chairman relating to the selection of the national men’s 15s team coach,” the statement from World Rugby said.
“Recent statements made by the chairman of the S.R.U questioning World Rugby’s funding package are inaccurate.”
But the Chief Executive Officer of S.R.U., Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i, defended the P.M.’s comments when he was contacted yesterday.
“Technically the Samoa Rugby Union is bankrupt,” Faleomavaega said.
“What is happening now is that if we are demanded by the people whom the Union owes money, then we are bankrupt because the Samoa Rugby Union does not have a security.
“We are surviving on an overdraft. So technically we are bankrupt if we get a demand letter. We currently owe monies to the banks but no security at all.”
The contrasting views surface as the fallout from the dispute between the Union and World Rugby continues.
The Samoa Observer understands that at least three World Rugby officials ended their contracts in Samoa this week. Among them are Tim Rogers, Physiotherapy, Keegan Murphy, Trainer and the General Manager of Rugby, Brian Hopley.
Mr. Hopley’s wife, Maree, who had also volunteered at the Union, is also leaving.
Asked about this, Faleomavaega said they resigned.
“All of them have resigned,” he said. “General Manager Brian Hopley has resigned including trainer Keegan Murphy as well as Physio Tim Rogers.
“Maree was not an employee of the union she was just a volunteer and assisting the Samoa Rugby Union because her husband was here with us.”
The C.E.O. rejected claims the positions were paid for by World Rugby and that the funding had been cut.
“That information is wrong. That is not the reason why they are returning home, they were all under World Rugby and they’re funding’s was from there.
“The only positions whose funding were cut was that of the Head Coach of Manu Samoa position as well as the Assistant Coaches positions.”
Faleomavaega also confirmed that S.R.U.’s Matafeo George Latu has just returned from attending World Rugby’s A.G.M. in Europe.
“At one time a meeting was scheduled for our S.R.U. Chairman to meet with World Rugby Chairman but then our Chairman was ill, then the meeting was differed until further notice.”
Back to the statement from World Rugby yesterday, it also clarified its position in relation to the appointment of Manu Samoa head coach, Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua.
“World Rugby did not interfere with the recruitment and selection process. A clear and transparent process was agreed by all parties.
“However, the union did not wish to accept the recommendation of the independently chaired selection panel, which included S.R.U. representatives. The S.R.U. board decided to make its own appointment.
“Therefore, World Rugby withdrew the funding allocated to this position but continues to honour its funding commitments for 2017 in line with the high-performance funding agreement.”
Read World Rugby’s statement in full below:
“World Rugby continues to be fully committed to assisting the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) with its current financial challenges.
Recent statements made by the chairman of the S.R.U. questioning World Rugby’s funding package are inaccurate. While the S.R.U’s failure to implement some jointly agreed high-performance initiatives in 2017 is a concern to World Rugby, it has resulted in a small amount of conditional investment being withheld.
World Rugby’s support of all tier two unions is both financial and administrative and is delivered on a partnership basis with each union. World Rugby continues to support the S.R.U’s national men’s 15s and sevens high-performance programmes with a record £1.5 million (T$5million) in overall investment in 2017, specifically including:
• Directly funding all insurance costs for the national 15s players while on international duty to maintain the highest standards of player welfare
• Funding a training camp in London to provide valuable preparation ahead of the November tests
• Funding the travel costs of Samoa players and other countries
• Funding any flights between test matches and all on-the ground expenses when playing against another tier two country or participating in World Rugby-organised tournaments
World Rugby can clarify that the union is not bankrupt and would also like to clarify the inaccurate statements made by the S.R.U. Chairman relating to the selection of the national men’s 15s team coach. World Rugby did not interfere with the recruitment and selection process. A clear and transparent process was agreed by all parties.
However, the union did not wish to accept the recommendation of the independently chaired selection panel, which included S.R.U. representatives. The S.R.U. board decided to make its own appointment.
Therefore, World Rugby withdrew the funding allocated to this position but continues to honour its funding commitments for 2017 in line with the high-performance funding agreement.
World Rugby’s support extends further than just financial commitments.
It is working in partnership with Pacific Rugby Players (the official I.R.P.A.-affiliated body representing Pacific Island players) to implement personal development, player welfare and other important initiatives to support Pacific Island players all over the world. World Rugby remains committed to supporting all Pacific Island unions in achieving their potential on and off the field and applauds the excellent progress made by the Fiji Rugby Union since implementing key governance and administrative reforms which are delivering significant positive results for the union.”