23 Jul 2020

Francis Kean exit from Fiji Rugby just the start - Dan Leo

2:32 pm on 23 July 2020

Pacific Rugby Players Welfare says Francis Kean's departure from the Fiji Rugby Union is a positive step but more work is needed to clean up rugby governance in the region.

In a statement released on Thursday morning, the FRU confirmed the former Navy Commander, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2007, had stood down from his positions as Chairman and Board Member.

FRU Chief Executive John O'Connor told RNZ Pacific that Kean finished his duties on Wednesday and he was due to discuss the matter with World Rugby.

The outgoing Chairman stood down from the World Rugby Council in April and withdrew his nomination for a seat on the influential Executive Committee following allegations of homophobia published in the Sunday Times and a damning open letter to voting members by former Samoa international Dan Leo.

Pacific Rugby Players Welfare CEO, Dan Leo

Pacific Rugby Players Welfare CEO, Dan Leo Photo: Facebook

The ABC also reported allegations that Kean kicked teenagers off World Rugby programmes to advance his own local club players.

Leo, who heads Pacific Rugby Players Welfare, welcomed Kean's departure from the FRU but said there was still a lot of work to do.

"The great thing is it's a fresh start for Fiji Rugby but we need to learn the lessons from that situation," he said.

"Our job now as an organisation is it's not job done. The systems that are in place that allow people like Francis Kean to assume positions of power in the Pacific, not just in the Pacific but in rugby as a sport need to be reviewed and need to be changed so they can't be repeated."

FRU Chairman Commander Francis Kean and Flying Fijians coach John McKee.

Francis Kean was also criticised by former Flying Fijians coach John McKee. Photo: Supplied / Fiji Rugby Union

World Rugby is investigating the various allegations against Francis Kean and launched an independent-led governance review process on 17 June, which includes examining the criteria for prospective council and elected members, but has yet to report any findings.

Asked if Mr Kean's departure from the FRU would affect its investigation, World Rugby pointed to a tweet that said "all allocated funding for the FRU is managed through a robustly audited and transparent process in line with its strict funding criteria".

Pacific Rugby Players Welfare released a 57 page report this week, urging the governing body to make wholesale and urgent governance reforms.

Francis Kean was appointed to the Chairman's role in 2015 by Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who is also his brother in law and President of the FRU.

Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, is the current Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union while Tongan MP Siaosi Pohiva replaced his father and former Prime Minister 'Akilisi as President of the Tonga Rugby Union in December.

Dan Leo said the governance of Pacific Island Unions and the impact governments have on those Unions is an ongoing issue.

"The fact that the Prime Minister of any of the three countries [Fiji, Samoa and Tonga] can still appoint a Chairman who they choose rather than it being an elected role by the Unions, so we've got a lot of work to do there," he said.

"Francis Kean is one man and it's important that we don't just replace one with another. We need the right people running Pacific Island rugby for the longevity of our Unions."