4 Apr 2016

Sport: Sacked CEO says slams management of rugby in Tonga

12:58 pm on 4 April 2016

The sacked CEO of the Tonga Rugby Union says rugby may be a professional sport but the administration of the game in the Kingdom is anything but.

The Union receives annual funding of almost two million Tongan Pa'anga from World Rugby to run its High Performance Unit and development fund.

But the game's governing body suspended all financial support at the start of January and will arrive in Tonga tomorrow for three days of talks with the interim TRU administration and the Tonga government.

Interim CEO, Chair and President, Fe'ao Vunipola, blamed debts of 700,000 Pa'anga incurred from the previous administration however his predecessor, Epeli Taione said the real reason funding has been frozen was because the staff paid for by World Rugby were sacked without explanation.

The Interim CEO of the Tonga Rugby Union, Talanoa Fuka Kitekei’aho.

Former interim CEO of the Tonga Rugby Union, Fuka Kitekei'aho Photo: Tonga Rugby Union

Fuka Kitekei'aho was interim CEO of the Tonga Rugby Union for two and half years before being sacked at the end of last year.

"All this bad governance, which is really affecting Tonga, World Rugby has been after that for a long time and everytime I tried to exert some pressure on that the board has reacted. If rugby is moving to professional the management of rugby in Tonga here remains as amateur so World Rugby is going out hoping that Tonga will come around and learn that this is a new business, a new opportunity for them and for Tonga as a whole (but) the management is still dragging behind, far behind."

Fuka Kitekei'aho said when he was CEO a plan was arranged that would have paid off the debts in full last month, however the new administration got itself into trouble with World Rugby by not following due process.

"They know how we handled their money and everything then suddenly they've got no one that they can trust in TRU - it's been risky for them to send their money so hence the temporary cessation of their assistance to Tonga. Back into the debt, I'm amazed the government is making it a big issue and now they (Tonga Rugby Union) turn around to the government and ask for help when they can't even prove themself in the position they are in. It's very easy to get rid of that debt and we have already managed it: wepaid some money to the company in US dollars but them the government as management stopped it. We did have a plan ahead and it would be no issue if World Rugby would throw in the money (owed) from January onwards it will get rid of this debt."

Fuka Kitekei'aho said the Tonga Rugby Union is also stalling on arbitration to resolve claims that the election of Fe'ao Vunipola as interim chair of TRU at its annual general meeting in December was unconstitutional.