World Rugby gives Fiji union until January to get house in order

The Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) has been given until January 2024 to get its house in order before their position will be reviewed again by World Rugby.

This follows World Rugby's decision to suspend the Fijian rugby union from its council membership.

FRU acting administration officer Sale Sorovaki told local media at the weekend that the governing body has taken the decision following the Fijian government's intervention through the Justice Minister Siromi Turaga a fortnight ago.

Turaga revealed in a meeting with then members of the FRU Board in Suva that Fiji rugby's national management body was operating illegally since 1918 because the registration of the FRU Charitable Trust was not in order.

He has since selected a new Board of Trustees and a special interim administrator, Suva lawyer Simione Valenitabua

Valenitabua attended a World Rugby meeting in Dublin, Ireland on May 11, where he updated World Rugby's governing council on Fiji's situation.

Fiji rugby's process to meet governing and legal requirements according to the Charitable Trusts Act of 1945 will be monitored by the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (FASANOC), under the leadership of president Dr Robin Mitchell and FASANOC vice president and WR rep Cathy Wong.

The world body also confirmed that despite the suspension all of Fiji's national teams will still participate in competitions sanctioned by it, including the HSBC World Sevens Series, the Olympic Games 2024 and the Rugby World Cup.

High performance funding earmarked for Fiji will continue to be received by the FRU.

orld Rugby said the steps taken was to help stabilise the FRU.

"Following recent publicised governance challenges arising within the FRU, World Rugby, together with the FRU, the government Fiji and FASANOC, have set out a collaborative roadmap to ensure short-term stability, continuity of current programmes and protect future preparations for major events, while the wider governance topics are addressed on a long-term basis," World Rugby said in a statement.

The approved roadmap, endorsed by the World Rugby council and executive board, outlines three pillars to restore stability and ringfence the FRU's participation in rugby's international competitions.

These are the high performance and development, governance and daily administration of Fiji rugby and its programs.

"Each pillar has been assigned clear leadership, roles and responsibilities and the overall oversight of the roadmap's implementation have been granted to Dr Robin Mitchell and Cathy Wong. A review of the position will be conducted in January 2024.

In line with good governance practice, at its annual meeting on Thursday, the World Rugby council, following a recommendation by its executive board, took the decision to suspend the FRU from the international federation's council while the robust recovery roadmap is implemented," the WR statement said.

"During this interim period, the FRU will remain a member of World Rugby subject to compliance with conditions set out within shared roadmap developed by the international federation, the FRU, the government of Fiji and FASANOC.

This interim solution will allow the FRU to continue its participation in World Rugby tournaments while protecting high performance programmes for Fiji men's and women's 15s and sevens programmes. It also ensures that Fiji's international teams can prepare as normal for the upcoming Rugby World Cup 2023 in France and qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games."

Meanwhile, former FRU president and former Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama claimed on FBC Sports that nothing was wrong with FRU during his tenure.

He blamed the current government for the suspension from World Rugby.

"What has happened is really no good for Fiji rugby. It should have been left alone," Bainimarama said.

"The one thing that world rugby does not like is interference with political people and that is what transpired and that is why things happened."

Bainimarama and his FRU board were forced to resign on May 1 when it was revealed that the FRU was not registered legally as a charitable organisation.