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Fiji govt should stay out of rugby affairs - opposition
06:00 am GMT+12, 27/07/2020, Fiji

There is too much interference in the affairs of rugby by the Fijian government according to an opposition MP.
 
Last week, the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) announced Francis Kean would "rotate out from the Fiji Rugby Board as per the Fiji Rugby constitution," after serving a controversial five year term.
 
The former navy commander, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2007, was appointed to the role by Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who is also his brother in law and President of the FRU.
 
CEO John O'Connor confirmed Conway Beg as the Prime Minister's new appointee.
 
Fiji's opposition MP Viliame Gavoka said the governments involvement and interference in running and appointing key personnel at the Fiji Rugby Union needs to stop.
 
"We've always maintained that there is too much interference in the affairs of rugby by the government of the day... we've been saying this for some time," he said.
 
"Prime Minister Bainimarama has used rugby as a platform for his politics and we all know how passionate we are about our rugby and him being in control and giving him the kind of support, that should only go to someone who is genuinely deserving to be recognised for his role in rugby, not through the government."
 
The former chairman of FRU said all appointments should be made by clubs.
 
"Conway is a well known administrator and has been involved in rugby for years. I know of him and of his capabilities and he's a good choice but again, he's a government appointee," said Gavoka.
 
"There are people from the unions, elected by the unions, that should be running the affairs of the rugby, not a government appointee."
 
"I know he's a capable administrator, but it's just against the principle of how rugby unions are played in terms of government interference."
 
"When I was Chairman, World Rugby discouraged any involvement by any government into the running of the rugby union of a country... the government appointee was really someone who was there as a link to the government on the way rugby was developing, not a leadership role.
 
Somehow they've been allowed to do that in Fiji and it's heading in the wrong direction. Rugby should be in the hands of rugby people with no interference from the government."
 
Gavoka expects Kean's departure was a result of pressure from World Rugby and the Fijian community.
 
"There was quite a lot of pressure from within Fiji on the World Rugby people and with how social media and what it is today, you can not hide things anymore."
 
"I think it was very obvious that people did not want him to be representing Fiji Rugby on the world stage and I have my doubts that the rotation story is true."
 
"Unfortunately for Fiji, Commander Kean is very close with the government, he owed his position to the government and that did not fit well with most of us from a parliamentary perspective and being a rugby follower myself...we welcome his exit and accept that he is no longer at the helm of rugby."
 
"Rugby is a gentlemen's game, the standard required there is very very high, and we don't see Commander Kean as someone who belongs in that crowd," he added.
 
The governance of sport and involvement from governments is an ongoing issue in the Pacific Islands, with Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, as 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.
 
There's outrage in Fiji over apparent preferential treatment of prisoners after Olympic gold medallist Amenoni Nasilasila, who was sentenced to eight years in September for the 2018 rape of a young woman, was reportedly seen training with the Namosi rugby teams in Suva.
 
While Gavoka did not support Kean's position on the FRU Board, he did back the Corrections Services and their rehabilitation process for prisoners to play rugby again.
 
He said he supported any rehabilitation process that is encouraging of a second chance.
 
"Any process to have him involved and rehabilitate, I would support that. Too many of our youth are languishing in prisons and it's a tragedy for Fiji to have of our youth held like that."
 
"He's a young man that needs to be rehabilitated and I'd like to give him the opportunity for rehabilitation given his age and the chance for him to play rugby [again] and to prepare himself after rugby. Any kind of support under supervision should be encouraged."
 
While Keans position as head of Corrections and Chair of FRU was under the microscope, Gavoka said he wasn't aware if convicted prisoners were playing in local competitions when he was Chairman in 2009.
 
"No I wasn't aware of that but I knew the prison side was on of the dominant sides in the country."
 
"I can not quite remember if the prisoners were actually playing with the team, but I know there was this team there working towards rehabilitation.... I just cannot recall whether that was happening during my time as Chairman," he said..
SOURCE: FIJI GOVT/PACNEWS


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