EDITORIAL: Rugby Imperialism Rears Its Ugly Head

If Fiji Rugby Union boss Radrodro Tabualevu sounded slightly miffed this week, there was a good reason. Fiji, home of the World 7s series champions, and the Flying Fijians, Pacific
18 Sep 2015 13:55
EDITORIAL: Rugby Imperialism Rears Its Ugly Head

If Fiji Rugby Union boss Radrodro Tabualevu sounded slightly miffed this week, there was a good reason.

Fiji, home of the World 7s series champions, and the Flying Fijians, Pacific Nations Cup champions does not have a seat on the World Rugby Council.

Our ninth ranking, on the latest World Rugby listing accounts for nothing, with minnows Canada and Japan having a seat each.

The so-called Tier One nations, Scotland and Italy also have a seat each despite being ranked lower than the Flying Fijians.  Scotland is ranked 10th, one below the Flying Fijians and Italy is ranked 14th.

Argentina, ranked one above Fiji, has a skeleton of a domestic competition with most of their players plying their trade in Europe.

Fair enough, there are a lot of international forums Fiji is not part of. With rugby, however, it’s a case of whose-wallet-is-fattest that matters.

Therein lies the gross injustice. New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Scotland have two seats on the council. The other above-mentioned teams have a seat each.

When asked to explain the discrepancy, World Rugby boss Brett Gosper warbled a response, sounding worse than a broken record.

It was a pathetic attempt to cover up the imperial inclinations of the old farts that run this global game. Gosper refused to tell the gospel-truth and explain the criteria that marginalises the Fijian, Tongan and Samoan rugby unions.

He should read the 2008 report that criticised the voting imbalance that keeps developing nations like Fiji with little say, let alone clout.

It is time the eight “foundation unions” Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France. relinquished their iron grip on the global game.

This de-democratisation of the governance of World Rugby prevents Pacific rugby unions from raising their concerns on issues like international player transfers and eligibility rules.

Let us explain it for them. It’s the money, stupid! Argentina, Canada, Japan and Italy (ACJI) have far more financial clout than playing ability, seriously.  Argentina is World Rugby’s window to the football-crazy Spanish-speaking world, Canada offers another window to the lucrative North American market and the corporate behemoths of Japan and Italy are too much to ignore in terms of sponsorship.  That’s Mr Gosper’s criteria, frankly speaking.

Islands teams are made to feel guilty because they were recipients of World Rugby development funds. This guilt-complex is World Rugby’s trump card, keeping the rugby factories working overtime in the islands, churning out players, for the global game.

One wonders whether the draws of the 2015 World Cup are done in such a way to favour marquee teams, so they have longer turn-around times. This is just an extension of the self-serving ideology that permeates the governance of World Rugby and its governing council.

This situation is exacerbated by modern-day rugby agent-bucaneers, who plunder the islands for young talent, pay them minimum wage in Europe and discard them when their market value has decreased. A form of human trafficking, that’s what it is.

The cause of player eligibility has been taken up by prominent voices like former All Black Michael Jones. The legendary flanker has argued that eligibility rules should be relaxed to allow players of island-extraction dropped from the All Blacks and Wallabies to be made available for selection in the Fijian, Samoan and Tongan national teams.

This makes senses from a global perspective so what are the old farts afraid of?  What’s so difficult about levelling the playing field, equal opportunities for all?   The current structures are a throwback to the days of the British Raj, when one quarter of the Earth swore allegiance to her Majesty the Queen.

The colonies like India and in the Carribbean provided much-needed raw materials for industrial England. It’s the same with rugby. Fijians, Tongans and Samoans provide much of the raw materials. Our rugby imperialists in the World Rugby Council don’t give two hoots about island rugby. That’s why Radrodro Tabualevu is miffed. In fact, he should be furious, as we are. We deserve better. It’s just a basic human right. But old farts wouldn’t understand that.



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