The RWC game France v Fiji was extremely disappointing for me, apart from the score, it’s sad to see one of the most exciting rugby teams in the world having to recycle Serevi, a player whose most trenchant supporters would admit, has passed his peak, added to the likelihood that one of the most exciting wingers in the world will probably observe the rest of the tournament from the spectators seats. In the words of Professor Sumner-Miller, “why is this so?”
I suspect it has something to do with the state of FRU’s financial situation. Witness the statement of the ex Tongan captain who wouldn’t play for his country because he would only get about $450 a game compared to the $60,000 he is earning whilst playing in the UK. And I understand that he’s not the only one ! How many players from the Pacific islands are not playing for their national teams because of the financial consequences ?
Manu Samoa coach John Boe scoffs whenever someone talks of fostering the global game of rugby. To the former All Black fly-half, the rhetoric rings hollow when he finds himself constantly prevented from fielding his best players for Test matches, and even the World Cup.
“The disappointing thing is that we have never even tried to get players like (All Blacks) Tana Umaga and Mils Muliaina to play for Samoa,” Mr Boe said. “We are only looking at the second tier of players but we can’t even get them. We have to settle for club players. Some 80% of my squad are playing club rugby in Auckland or Wellington.
No-one will admit it, but many Super 12 and New Zealand NPC players are told that if they want to keep their contracts, they cannot make themselves available for Samoa, Tonga or Fiji.”
Consequently, I’m a little flabbergasted when I read what O’Neill says
“[the IRB] has reaped more than £50 million ($121 million) already with the ARU to hand over another $25 million…… He notes the Pacific Island states such as Fiji, Tonga and Samoa sought more funds from the IRB. But the main sources of revenue for rugby – broadcasting, sponsorship and gatetakings – are limited in those countries.”
Money, money, money, is that all Rugby administrators can think about ? How about the IRB funding a separate Pacific Islands team to be included in the Super 12’s and paying the players to stay in the Southern Hemisphere with the special provision that they are released to play in RWC ? Or if individuals choose to go to play in the UK (or France or Italy) their pay is subsidised so they can play for their national team in the RWC without loss of income. And while we’re talking about where the RWC riches are to be distributed, how about a payment to any national union that makes it to the RWC with a larger proportion to those unions such as Romania, Georgia, Uruguay and Argentina and a lesser proportion to those unions that have access to ‘traditional’ sources of revenue.
I think it’s time that the old fuddy duddies of the IRB woke up to the fact that they have a responsibility to expand the game to the world and not sit on huge financial windfalls used for the aggrandisement of a few insiders. I hereby submit my name as some one who would happily travel around the south Pacific organising a Super 12’s team.