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Chinese company steps in to aid ‘insolvent’ Samoa Rugby Union

More than WST$350,000 (€119,000/$138,000) has been generated in a fundraiser for the Samoa Rugby Union after SRU chairman, and the Pacific Island nation’s Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, declared that the sport’s governing body was “insolvent”.

Tuilaepa had earlier stated that the union was unable to “pay off our debts with the banks” or fund player wages. He also said the SRU had no money to pay for its players’ insurance. However, following the fundraiser, which was televised live by local broadcaster TV1, it was announced that the money pledged was some WST$354,000. The Samoa Observer newspaper said this included a donation of more than WST$150,000 from a Chinese company.

The proceeds will go towards the insurance for the men’s national team who are in Europe for their Northern Hemisphere tour, which starts against Scotland on Saturday. It will also be used to pay the wages of coach Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua, whose appointment is being contested by the sport’s global governing body World Rugby. 

“Compared to powerful and resourceful rugby nations with the financial capacities complemented by millions in pool players to select their national sides, Samoa’s meagre population of a little over 180,000 to pick our best cannot compete,” Tuilaepa said, according to the Observer.

“On that note, I commend our overseas based players who have put country before money by committing to play and represent Samoa not only in rugby but in rugby league and other sports disciplines.

“You only need to look at the Tongan representative team competing in the Rugby League World Cup. The Tongan players have sacrificed their lucrative salaries to take time out from their New Zealand and Australian clubs to put country first.”

The Prime Minister added that despite the SRU’s dire financial position, it may still allow an increase in player allowances in a bid to retain Samoan rugby’s top stars. “Retaining our players is a crucial component to the SRU’s long term investment to have our best players available to represent Samoa,” Tuilaepa said.

The SRU’s dire financial position hit the headlines yesterday (Wednesday) as it again illustrated the disparity between rugby union’s elite nations and the lower tier unions. According to the Associated Press news agency, World Rugby said it covers all the players’ insurance costs and underwrites the cost of preparation camps and flights to and from Test matches as part of its investment of £1.5m (€1.7m/$1.97m) in the SRU’s high-performance program for 2017.

Samoa is also due to face England at Twickenham on November 25. World Rugby said the host unions are covering Samoa’s logistical costs on the ground. The SRU is in dispute with World Rugby over governance issues and changes made to the team’s coaching staff.

The AP said the SRU wrote to England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) several weeks ago, saying it was in dispute with World Rugby and requesting a match fee to aid its financial troubles. The RFU may make a goodwill payment of £75,000 to the SRU, which would help to pay for the Samoa players’ match fees.

The RFU repeated this gesture last year ahead of a Test against Fiji, a game that is said to have generated around £10m in match revenue.