There is logic in Tuilaepa’s World Rugby vote
The criticisms of Samoa and Fiji’s vote in determining the President of World Rugby are not without merits, given the issues that have plagued the progress of the sport in this part of the world under the same tired administration.
But it’s a bit rich coming from New Zealand and the SANZAAR Unions, including Australia and South Africa. It’s like the pot calling the kettle black looking at their recent behaviour but we’ll talk a bit more about that later in this piece.
In the meantime, let’s look at what is happening now.
Problems with the lack of funding, player availability, inequality in revenue sharing, club versus country and many other issues have played a huge part in the demise of the sport in Samoa, and many small rugby-playing nations.
While the issues have been talked about time and time again, the lack of real progress in addressing them cannot be ignored. The end product of this ignorance has been devastating not just for the individual countries but also for the sport as a global entity. The demise of rugby is borderline crisis.
All you have to do is look at how the Manu Samoa, once a proud passionate team with fire in their belly has been reduced to a group that hardly rates a mention now, to see how the leadership of World Rugby have failed to help and navigate these challenges contrary to their promises.
That said, we have to acknowledge the individual unions and their administration must be held responsible for their performances. The Samoa Rugby Union is not without it’s faults but then we all know that.
Getting back to World Rugby and governing the global sport, when the vote for a President came up, there was a general feeling that change was needed. People advocating for a change certainly felt that from the experiences and all the troubles Samoa and Pacific countries had struggled with, this was their opportunity.
What’s more and at long last, Samoa and Fiji had finally found their voice on the World Rugby Council. Having been granted membership and voting rights not too long ago, here was the opportunity to finally exercise that privilege to right the wrong. The choice was quite simple. Englishman Bill Beaumont represented the old school while Argentina’s Agustin Pichot offered an alternative.
Now this is where it became interesting. Although it cannot be said that Samoa and Fiji’s vote could have swung the election because the Englishman clearly had the numbers secured, Samoa and Fiji nonetheless voted for Beaumont.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, who is the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, made the decision. It would be great to hear from Chairman Tuilaepa why he voted the way he did. It would also be good to know what was offered to Samoa and how Samoa stands to benefit from a tired old administration that appears to have done very little to progress the sport in this part of the world.
But Tuilaepa’s vote has drawn the ire of the New Zealand Rugby Union as well as the SANZAAR countries who have criticised the decision. The Chairman of NZ Rugby, Brent Impey, has been the loudest with his criticisms.
"We did our best to persuade Fiji and Samoa that it would be in their best interests to vote with the countries of the southern hemisphere," he said. "But for their own reasons, they chose not to."
You can hardly blame Samoa and Fiji, can you? In the words of Jim Kayes in his column for Newsroom, “the Pacific Island nations have, for far too long, been paid lip service by the southern hemisphere behemoths.”
We couldn’t agree more. Besides, what does Mr. Impey know about “the best interest” of Samoa and Pacific countries when they have been ignoring the plea for help from us for goodness knows how long now?
When it comes to SANZAAR and their attitude towards the Pacific rugby countries, they have only been too happy to ignore our pledges while they milk the cream of our potential and talents.
They have denied every opportunity for Samoa and other Pacific countries to be part of their professional competitions, to the point they looked to South America for both international and super rugby instead of lending a helping hand to their poor brothers across the Pacific. They know very well that all Samoa needs is regular exposure to top-notch professional competition, week in and week out, and we will beat them. Period.
Which is also why their record of playing test matches in the Pacific is abysmal for what they proclaim. When will Australia visit Samoa? South Africa? And remember when the All Blacks finally came to Samoa, weren’t they only here for the weekend? What does that say about New Zealand knowing what is in the best interest of Samoa and Pacific countries? Absolutely rubbish.
While we don’t agree with the Celtic Nations attitude either when it comes to rugby matters, at least on any given year, they offer opportunities for Pacific countries to play them regularly. And isn’t it a fact that the majority of professional players from Samoa who are now contributing remittances to their families here are all plying their trade in the Northern Hemisphere. Again, what does that tell us about New Zealand Rugby and the SANZAAR Unions.
We can go on but you get our drift.
The point is while Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s vote on behalf of Samoa would not have been popular in the eyes of some; it makes a lot of sense given Samoa’s experience. If anything, it told the truth about our struggles and the way we’ve been treated for as long as we can remember.