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Tonga Rugby Union in danger of being relegated to World Rugby tier three
05:28 am GMT+12, 25/09/2020, Tonga

The future of rugby union in Tonga is teetering on the brink, with the battle for control of the sport in the islands still unresolved.
 
Essential funding from World Rugby has been suspended indefinitely, and there's real concern that Tonga's status as a tier two nation alongside Fiji and Samoa could be at risk.
 
A slide into tier three would relegate Tonga to development status, where there is much less money to go round.
 
The immediate future of rugby in the kingdom rests on a tri-partite deal waiting to be signed by the government, World Rugby and the Tongan Rugby Union.
 
It would allow an interim management team to take over the running of the game until long standing governance issues linked to the current administration can be resolved.
 
The governance process is one that all the Pacific island rugby unions have been through, but Tonga is the last, and a solution is proving hard to find, with rival factions at odds, and an ongoing battle in the courts as long time interim Chief Executive Fe'ao Vunipola seeks to hold on to power.
 
For men's national coach, Toutai Kefu, the situation is deeply frustrating; funding from World Rugby has been suspended indefinitely, and as a result, for now at least, the man who led the team at the last World Cup is out of a job.
 
"There was one person within the organisation that didn't want me to resign. So basically, earlier this year, our governance had to provide annual compliance records, audits and all that kind of stuff and our union hasn't been able to do that. So we're under some kind of suspension. Once we provide those then we can move forward and hopefully I can re-sign. But at the moment, I'm just in limbo," Kefu told Pacific Beat.
 
If the three-way interim management deal isn't signed off, there is a real fear that Tonga could find themselves dropping down from Tier 2 to Tier 3, in amongst the developing nations, with limited funding, and no room to negotiate.
 
Toutai Kefu says that would be a disaster because the Ikale Tahi would not have the funds to meet their World Cup qualification obligations against Samoa next year, or send a team to the Olympic Rugby Sevens repechage.


SOURCE: ABC/PACNEWS


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