MICHAEL FIELD - stuff.co.nz , 23 January 2011
The International Rugby Board (IRB) has taken the drastic action of warning Fiji that it could be kicked out of rugby ahead of World Cup over a power tussle in the island nation where the military regime has demanded its board quit.
The IRB’s top officials say they will travel to Fiji next month to investigate the deepening crisis.
Earlier this month Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama’s regime said that the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) board and executive would have to quit before they received F$3 million (NZ$2 million) to play in New Zealand.
The board quit and last week the CEO Keni Dakuidreketi – a long a target of Bainimarama attacks – also quit.
A special board meeting was to be held next week to appoint a board that would meet the approval of the military.
However on Friday the IRB wrote to the FRU and warned them not to hold a special meeting and to reject Dakuidreketi’s resignation so that he remained as CEO.
"In light of the prevailing circumstances, there should be no changes within the senior management structures of FRU," the IRB letter said.
They warned it was not prudent to hold the special meeting and said "that any action in contravention of the Constitution of the FRU will result in the Union potentially not remaining in good standing as a member of the Union of the IRB which may result in the IRB having to take a determination on the continued membership of the IRB of the FRU".
Interim FRU chairman Rafaele Kasibulu says the letter also advised that IRB chairman Bernand Lapisset and the CEO of the IRB Mike Miller will meet the existing board next month.
"The IRB has indicated that FRU continues to meet all the requirements of governance and has developed rugby in a manner consistent with the expectations of IRB. The Government of Fiji has been made aware of these views by IRB in writing."
The FRU’s council, made up of all the provincial unions, claim the FRU board had been misrepresenting the situation to the IRB.
Council spokesperson and legal adviser Carl Ngamoki-Cameron told the Fiji Sun the majority of the council had lost trust and confidence in the ability of the current directors to meet the expectations of all member unions and the public in promoting first and foremost the interests of rugby.
He said the Board is answerable to the FRU Council, not the IRB.
"These internal democratic mechanisms within the FRU are completely independent of the Fiji Government and whether or not it decides to financially assist the Board of the FRU that has failed to procure adequate funding for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, despite its best efforts.
"It is unfortunate that the Board has attempted to use the media to resolve internal issues at Rugby House, further eroding the reputation and credibility of Fiji Rugby locally and abroad."
The crisis began with a fundraising lottery to fund Fiji’s RWC bid. But the after police and competition authorities raided Rugby House in Suva, it was found that the lottery was to have raised over $350,000 but that $155,743 is unaccounted for.