Samoa's Rugby Chief appeals to World Rugby

The Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Rugby Union, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i, has appealed to World Rugby not to leave the game’s emerging nations behind.

The appeal from Samoa comes as wealthier unions are losing massive amounts of revenue due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Samoa and the other Tier 2 unions all met with the global body to present their best and worst case scenarios in the current environment with the novel coronavirus causing all games to be postponed or cancelled, so World Rugby can plan loans to struggling unions.

“We’ve been asked to submit what the next six months would look like, the forecast of where we are and the impact on us as a union, not having matches and so on,” Faleomavaega said.

“If everything is cancelled it’s going to be a real backwards step for us financially.”

Samoa has already missed out on four home fixtures for Invest Samoa Manumā before June thanks to the cancellation of Global Rapid Rugby, while the Pacific Nations Cup is also in jeopardy with the world rugby calendar in flux.

With World Rugby set to decide on financial support packages at their Council meeting in May, Faleomavaega said the tricky part is everyone is struggling under the weight of COVID-19.

“It’s not just us it’s everywhere, it’s a global thing for all sports and all the unions,” he said.

“I think it’s a reality check of how vulnerable the sport is, it just goes to show rugby is no different than any other business.

“The struggle that now the Tier 1s are finding, those are the struggles that we’ve faced year-in year-out.”

Bigger unions are facing financial ruin because they collect most of their revenue from broadcast rights, however the Samoa Rugby Union receive next to nothing from their own such deals.

“For us, the majority of our [income] comes from sponsorship… a lot of our revenue is what’s branded on the jersey,” Faleomavaega said.

However all that sponsorship money is now up in the air according to the C.E.O., with no matches to play and thus no exposure for sponsors.

“That’s a major worry for us, we are just trying to wait out what’s going on and hopefully have something to discuss with our partners, a way forward and how we can help each other,” Faleomavaega said.

“We need some sort of concrete assurance by the decision makers of the game so we can go back to the sponsors and have those conversations.”

Although international competitions may not be able to resume for some time, the Samoa Rugby Union has been putting tentative plans in place for the second half of the year if Samoa’s state of emergency regulations are loosened to allow the return of sport.

“What we can control is domestically, if that happens we’re ready to go,” Faleomavaega said.

“We are just trying as much as we can to survive, see where we can cut costs and so forth in terms of our planning and what’s going to happen in the second half of the year.”

One ongoing expense for the Union is the Invest Samoa Manumā squad, who are stranded in New Zealand under the country’s lockdown regulations.

“Unfortunately we just have to bite the bullet and support as much as we can,” Faleomavaega said.

Samoa Rugby Union are paying the players contracts out, as well as for their accommodation and meals where they are staying in Auckland.

“We did ask Global Rapid Rugby, the organisers, so they’re helping us in that regard,” the C.E.O. said.

Meanwhile the Union are close to appointing a new General Manager of High Performance, with that role being unfilled since Zane Hilton resigned in January 2019.

“The process has already been done, we’re just waiting for the Board to have a meeting to receive that report. Then they’ll make that decision on the appointment,” Faleomavaega said.

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