Samoa denounces report on rugby governance failures
The Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) has denounced a blistering report on the state of Pacific rugby and World Rugby.
The Union says it does not recognise the independent players association that wrote it, nor its founder, Daniel Leo, as representing Pacific players.
On Monday, the S.R.U. issued a statement saying the former Manu Samoa captain's views are “shaped by limited actual knowledge.”
It was in response to the 59-page Veilomani Report published last week by Pacific Rugby Player Welfare (P.R.P.W.).
“We at S.R.U. believe his (Leo’s) views are shaped by limited actual knowledge because he does not have any official place in Pacific rugby and makes judgements from outside of the Pacific,” the statement reads.
“Samoa Rugby Union only recognises the Pacific Rugby Players (P.R.P.) as the representatives of Pacific players which operate within the structures of International Rugby Players.”
Speaking to the Samoa Observer (before S.R.U released their statement), Leo said he expected a negative response from the rugby unions implicated in the report, which details allegations of corruption and state interference in Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
The report claims World Rugby has allowed corruption, political interference and poor oversight to fester in the Pacific unions to undermine their international performance and standings.
“They [the unions] are in a position unfortunately, even when it looks really bad, that they have to back World Rugby because that is their bread and butter,” Mr. Leo said.
“We won’t be surprised if the unions come out negatively, we’ve seen it before […] No one is going to bite the hand that feeds them, basically.”
P.R.P.W published the Veilomani Report on Wednesday. It is its submission to World Rugby’s independent Governance Review led by Sir Hugh Robertson Chairman of the British Olympic Association.
In it, the association detail a dozen areas where they see governance shortfalls and finish with 32 requests of World Rugby, including public updates on investigations, beginning new investigations, and working harder on governance issues in the Pacific.
World Rugby immediately responded, publishing a statement that said it only recognised Pacific Rugby Players as the official association for Pacific Island rugby players, and defended its record on governance.
“World Rugby is an advocate of the promotion of best-practice governance structures in sport,” the governing body said.
“Furthermore, World Rugby only recognises International Rugby Players as the global representative body for players,” it stated.
“Within its structures, players from the Pacific Islands are represented via Pacific Rugby Players.”
Leo said the reluctance to recognise or talk to associations outside World Rugby’s own funding model is typical of the organisation. He has previously called it similar to marking your own homework, and said the P.R.P.W. will continue to highlight issues that affect Pacific players.
“It’s our responsibility as [an] independent players association that isn’t relying on World Rugby funding to have this voice,” he said.
In a public statement to World Rugby’s response, the P.R.P.W. did not mince words.
“If World Rugby insist on hearing only the views of those player organisations that they fund and therefore effectively control that is a sad indictment of how they envisage an independent-led governance review should operate,” they state.
“It highlights their lack of self-awareness about how poorly served the game’s stakeholders are by the lack of fair play and equality for all in today’s World Rugby status quo.”
Leo told the Samoa Observer that World Rugby’s prompt response shows they are shaken by the report and don’t want their status quo to change.
It is why he addressed the report to the Governance Review leader himself instead of World Rugby, thinking it would be taken more seriously.
“He is the only glimmering hope we have that our report will be received and acted upon,” Leo said. He says Sir Robertson responded to P.R.P.W, accepting the report and saying he will make sure it is reviewed appropriately.
“The fact that [World Rugby] are trying to pick holes in it straight away shows they are scared and they don’t want the situation to change,” Leo said.
“They don’t want to see a cashed up and powerful Pacific Island Samoa Tonga Fiji, because it rocks the status quo and it means we are fulfilling our potential, and have the potential to beat them anywhere and anytime.”
S.R.U. Chairman Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi has been approached for comment.
The full statement by the Samoa Rugby Union:
Samoa Rugby Union would like to make the following statement as per the allegations from Daniel Leo of Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (P.R.P.W.).
Like World Rugby, Samoa Rugby Union does not recognize Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (P.R.P.W.) and its C.E.O. Daniel Leo, who is not the official Players Association and acting on his own behalf.
We at S.R.U. believe his views are shaped by limited actual knowledge because he does not have any official place in Pacific rugby and makes judgements from outside of the Pacific.
For the record, since 2014 S.R.U. has had unqualified accounts with financial reports to World Rugby leading to a seat on the World Rugby Council.
Samoa Rugby Union only recognizes the Pacific Rugby Players (P.R.P.) as the representatives of Pacific players which operate within the structures of International Rugby Players.