14 Nov 2017

Sport: Samoa PM defends SRU on World Rugby stoush

1:07 pm on 14 November 2017

Samoa's Prime Minister has defended the appointment of the Manu Samoa head coach against the wishes of World Rugby.

Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua was awarded the job in September following the resignation of Namulauulu Alama Ieremia.

RNZ Pacific understands Fuimaono was ranked last of the seven shortlisted candidates interviewed by an independent panel.

But the SRU Board, of which Fuimoano was a member, opted to appoint him to a second stint in charge, despite the panel recommending another candidate.

Samoa coach Titimaea Tafua during the 2011 World Cup.

Samoa coach Titimaea Tafua during the 2011 World Cup. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

In an interview with government newspaper Savali, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also the SRU Chair, said the panel overlooked the fact Fuimaono was the best applicant in terms of performance.

"Fuimaono was our head coach when Manu Samoa beat the Wallabies in 2011. The Wallabies then was one of the top two tier one teams in the world," he said.

"Sponsorships and good performances on the field are closely related. Which is why we are especially preoccupied with coaches who produce good results on the field."

"From the communications with World Rugby, their view is that the SRU should only be a rubber stamp. That is to approve whatever a sub-committee recommends. We disagreed.

"Indeed we attach importance to coach performance on the field. In a small country where rugby is popular, the public is most vocal when its rugby team does not perform.

"And the Board has to bear all the bad publicity from the fans. We are answerable to our public and sponsors who fund over 60 percent of our Budget."

SRU Chief Executive Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai and Chairman and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.

SRU Chief Executive Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai and Chairman and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi. Photo: Supplied/Savali

Tuilaepa said a World Rugby representative was a part of the interview panel.

"I would say in my years as Chairman, about 95 percent of the panellists' recommendations are accepted by the Board - only in exceptional circumstances that the recommendations are not accepted," he said.

"Many of our players do not fully understand the coaches' directives in English. Some of our expatriate appointees by the World Rugby do not fully appreciate cultural practices of our players which by tradition generate greater mental preparation for our players.

"That is why the Board recommends other management appointees who are locals to help out. There are many negative feedbacks that the Board has to try and resolve on many cultural matters beyond the understanding of World Rugby officials."

Last week the Prime Minister declared the Samoa Rugby Union was bankrupt and unable to pay players' wages or pay off their debts.

Manu Samoa sing the anthem before their test against Scotland at the weekend.

Manu Samoa sing the anthem before their test against Scotland at the weekend. Photo: AFP

The Union subsequently raised almost $US140,000 from a fundraising radio and telethon but Tuilaepa said the SRU's financial problems remain an ongoing concern.

"SRU's financial position has gotten worse with the latest threat by World Rugby to cut their contribution due to their displeasure with certain decisions by the Samoa Rugby Union over the appointments of our head coaches for the rugby fifteens and rugby sevens," he told Savali.

"Our annual budget for this year is close to 11 million Samoan Tala ($US4.34m). World Rugby funds only about 4.6 million Tala ($US1.81m) and SRU bears the major balance of the budget from its own fundraisings which include sponsorships from our Government and two local companies.

"The deficit is funded by bank loans. If these Commercial Banks were to call up payment, we have no choice but to fold up.

"Our loans are unsecured and we are operating from leased property owned by the Samoa Land Corporation.

"We have been dependent on bank financing for the last three years and the figures are available in our annual accounts which have clean audit opinions, copies of which have been submitted to World Rugby for their records, so we are talking about hard real issues backed by our financial record."

England's Rugby Football Union confirmed last week it will make a goodwill payment of almost $US100,000 to the Samoan Rugby Union.

The RFU is expected to generate more than $US13 million when England host Samoa at Twickenham next weekend but, under World Rugby rules, they are under no obligation to share gate receipts with visiting test sides.

Tuilaepa told Savali that system was unfair and not sustainable.

" When we tour England and play against their teams, the stadiums are at full capacity earning millions of pounds for the host Union and Manu Samoa gets hardly anything in return," he said.

"Why? The gate sharing since the amateur days is still current where the host Union takes all. Smaller Unions like Manu Samoa, Tonga and Fiji are expected to play up to their standards to fatten their bank accounts at our expense.

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Samoa and England will play at Twickenham next weekend Photo: Photosport

"This is like being back again in the Roman Coliseum days where the entertainers are fed to the lions. Samoa, Fiji and Tonga provide the entertainment.

"If the gate sharing is not changed, the poorer unions cannot afford to continue on playing under these circumstances."

The SRU Chair also dismissed allegations of corruption and mismanagement within the Union.

"I have mentioned before that for the last three years our audited accounts had clean audit opinions," he said.

"That is final proof as in any organisation that our financial statements showed a true and fair view of the financial results and that proper accounting of the organizations financing have been kept.

"For these past three years of improved management and financial reforms, we have managed to pay all our expenses and fulfilled all our obligations to participate at World Rugby sanctioned events, paid all the players allowances and have no more complaints.

"World Rugby should be fully aware of these developments."

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