There is only really one way Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, as the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, can save the sport from further slipping down the path of extinction.
He, his administrators and everyone involved including high profile coaches who being paid ridiculous sums of money need to walk the talk when it comes to good governance, transparency and accountability.
We are not just talking about finances here.
We are talking about everything including how teams are selected, the treatment of officials, results and the operation of the Union.
Since the Union now basically relies on donations and mostly help from stakeholders, sponsors and members of the public for its survival, they need to be a lot more accountable in the way they conduct themselves.
The truth is that the history of Samoan rugby is not exactly the best example of transparency, accountability and good governance. Contrary to what they have been preaching, in the not too distant past, we’ve seen many examples of how funds have been spent – or misspent – and how abuse and misuse has become part of the equation.
This has always been an achilles heel for Samoa. We don’t need to tell you anymore. It’s an old story of poor administration coupled with ineptitude, incompetence and negligence. In some instances, it’s outright corruption.
This has led us to the path where we have found ourselves in today. And while some new faces have tried their best to turn the ship around over the past few years, it’s unreasonable to expect Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i and his crew to come up with a miracle overnight.
The rot the Samoa Rugby Union has found itself in did not materialise overnight. It took years and years of accepting second best, bad practices and complacency so that a little scratch has now blown out into a life-threatening boil.
The good thing is that the Chief Executive Officer, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i, has come out to tell us just exactly how bad things are.
“We are continually trying to reduce our costs,” he said. “To improve the performance it needs money, money we don’t have.”
“The Union is getting to the stage that our annual budget is around $8 million and from that budget, most of it is all locally raised.”
“Our government and our local sponsors cannot afford to continue putting additional funding into S.R.U. because at the end of day there are other sports to consider.”
“Government looks at other issues to consider and while S.R.U. is the biggest export in terms of Samoa’s exposure wise, but the Union also has to play a part in the trying to do the work and entice sponsorships on our own off island.”
“We’ve had a lot of potential sponsors, like anything else in the World of professional sports it’s the result that tends to play a major role in decisions. And our ranking hasn’t been good.”
Fair enough. We hear you loud and clear Fepulea’i.
But where does the buck stop when it comes to results? And has anybody ever heard of the notion that in sports the key to successful teams is not just good athletes, they are traced back to decisions being made in the boardrooms. Which is why we believe changes in the way the Samoa Rugby Union is run is absolutely necessary.
To be fair to the Union, we also suffer from the injustice at the hands of the fat cats of World Rugby who continue to rob us of talents, money and much more.
But that’s okay. What needs to happen is that we need to tidy up our house first. If the Samoa Rugby Union can prove that it is transparent, accountable and is being run on the principle of good governance; that will be a great start.
It goes without saying that you build the foundation right, everything else will fall into place. But we cannot continue to expect winning results from Manu Samoa and Manu Samoa Sevens when the foundation of our rugby is absolutely shot. And there are no short cuts.
It’s going to require tedious, painstaking work and a lot of it.
The fact is as Samoans, we all love rugby. It has become our national sport by default despite the recent abysmal performance of our national teams on the international stage.
The worry is that if reports are anything to go by, it is on the verge of being declared bankrupt which is something no one who cares about rugby in Samoa wants.
Indeed, we might not all agree with what S.R.U. has done - or not done – but we all share a common passion to see our rugby men and women teams rise to where they should be.
Do we have a part to play?
Yes we do. Whatever we can do to help, let’s give the Union a hand. And let’s not stop demanding improvements and tangible transparent actions from them.
The point is that our Rugby Union is in the pit and they need help. We cannot continue to kick a wounded animal. We need to think about how we can help.
At the end of the day, Manu Samoa doesn’t just belong to the Samoa Rugby Union. It belongs to all of us.
What do you think? Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless!