Rugby Union in dire straits
The Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.) has nothing to hide.
The Chief Executive Officer, Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i, is not staying mum about the dire financial predicament faced by Union.
Paying off debts, poor game results, attainting international sponsorships, dealing with public criticism, the injustice faced by the Samoan players overseas are some of the issues Faleomavaega spoke about during a one-hour interview with the Samoa Observer.
“We have improved considerably over the last three years,” he said. “Our debt used to be $3.2 million and it’s now come down to $1.4 million."
“We are continually trying to reduce our costs but the expectations of the country and the expectations of the world around the Manu Samoa that we have to be up there at that level."
“To improve the performance it needs money, money we don’t have,” said Faleomavaega.
“And don’t forget the S.R.U. is not just Manu Samoa, we have a Sevens team, Manu Samoa XV, Samoa A, the Under 20’s, Manu Sina and we also have the rest of the country in which we have development programmes."
“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.”
The C.E.O. said they invested a lot of money into the evaluation of the Manu Samoa brand in the past 12 months.
“We wanted to find out how much is the value of our Manu Samoa brand and that exercise cost a lot of money, but we had to do it,” said Faleomavega.
He did not specify how much was the survey or the result, but noted that S.R.U. has been working really hard to try and go out of Samoa for sponsors.
“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,” said the C.E.O.
He told the Samoa Observer that despite their financial woes, the Union continues to support the players and management as best they could.
“The only thing we can’t dictate at all is the results."
“It’s not all about the money at some stages too, however the players and the managements and the coaches have to play their role as well."
“We may not go overboard like the bigger unions but we do try and support them, as best we can."
“We make sure we pay them on time, however we can’t control results, it’s up to the players and management, unfortunately in terms of sponsorship, results play a major role in getting that,” said Faleomavaega.
He said the financial struggles had been with the Union about 20 years ago and they did their best to seek other sponsorships such as asking for grants directly with the counterparts that we played against and World Rugby for some additional.
“At the end of the day we depend on the government to help us."
“We’re a union that lives a day by day and week by week, and even with the money we get from our sponsors it doesn’t come in a bulk it comes in phases."
“We have been like this way before my time,” said Faleomavaega.
He said catering the daily necessities during camps for the players, costs a lot of money.
“We feed them twice a day, their allowances, fitting and so much more,” he said.
He also pointed out the Union had a strategic plan that was put in place two years ago, and it came with a major restructuring within the Union.
“From the perspective, of the World Rugby and up until now we have not filled some of those positions."
“Because we cannot afford it,” said the C.E.O.
“We prioritize the players and that is why we are here for the players,” said Faleomavaega.
Another issue that Faleomaveaga spoke about was the “injustice” in the paying of Samoan players at national games.
“World Rugby and all the richer union needs to seriously consider the issue of gate sharing and to assist two tier two nations like Samoa, Tonga and Fiji."
“If you look at the Tier two nations, Samoans, Tongans and Fijians are the most sought after players around the world so we have our players all over the world, and we contribute a lot to the game of rugby and it’s important to be noted."
“We contribute to the global game, not only at club level around the world but also our players contribute a lot to the entertainment of the game as well,” he said.
Faleomavaega reiterated the “injustice” in payments made to the players when it comes to the smaller unions against bigger unions despite playing on the same stage.
“Same players that play and contribute to the entertainment,” said Faleomavaega.
He said each union covered for their own player’s allowance, what Samoa can afford to pay them.
And that is NZ$1200 ($2,118) a week.
“We are the players who come to play, are not coming here to play for the money, but they are coming here to play for Samoa."
“It has always been like this, and it will continue to be like this unless the two tier teams come together to raise a voice to the World Rugby as they need to see the imbalance of what has been happening over the years,” said Faleomavaega.
Faleomavaega says public criticisms play a negative impact when it comes to the teams.
“We have other Samoan players who are eager to play for us, but when they read about the complaints by the public about the S.R.U. and its administrations, its players, that potential players will never want to play for Samoa."
“Samoa will never get out of this hole if the public continues to criticize the administration, the staff, the players and the management,” said Faleomavega.
The C.E.O. further calls for public support for the Union.