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Savukimoala On Dispute

Samisoni Savukimoala is the president of the Rugby Referees Of Fiji Association (RROFA) formerly known as Fiji Rugby Referees Association (FRRA).   First of all I would like to sincerely
19 Jul 2016 13:49
Savukimoala On Dispute

Samisoni Savukimoala is the president of the Rugby Referees Of Fiji Association (RROFA) formerly known as Fiji Rugby Referees Association (FRRA).


First of all I would like to sincerely thank all our members and affiliated Learning Centres who have faithfully and sincerely gave their unwavering support in our stand against some of the systems and processes that is currently being practiced, and encouraged by Fiji Rugby Union, within the FRU Referee Unit which we believe compromises the integrity of the role of Match Officiating, Rugby Games Results, and the Game of Rugby as whole in our nation, especially in the provincial and/or national Level.

In response to the media release made by the FRU chief executive officer John O’Connor, of which we will not stoop down by making personal attacks, I would like to clearly state here the motive and objective of our action on Saturday.

In the last FRU AGM there was a directive from the FRU President (the Prime Minister) for the FRU (through the chairman and CEO) to have the issue in regards to our newly revived and re-established national body Rugby Referees Of Fiji Association (RROFA) resolved as soon as possible and come the next FRU AGM he (the president) do not want it to be brought up again.

So as the governing body of the game of rugby in our Nation, we thought that FRU will take the initiative in calling for a meeting in commencing the process of resolving the stand-off between the current FRU executive management and our newly revived and re-established national association – namely RROFA.

The reason why I say the current executive management is because, right from the outset and from the very initial stage of the establishment of RROFA, the FRU, through the former CEO, the former general manager Rugby, and the FRU development manager, was all along very much part of the processes and were all supporting and assisting our resolve in reviving and establishing our National Referee Association.


Communication breakdown

And that was where the communication breakdown starts till to date.

As I have stated earlier, after the directive from the FRU president during the last AGM, we (RROFA) thought that the FRU will take the initiative but unfortunately, after almost two months from that AGM, RROFA have to take the first step by formarlly and officially writing and requesting to FRU for a meeting, in our effort to get this national issue resolved.

And after waiting, asking and begging for another two (2) months FRU was still adamant and show no genuine effort in coming to the negotiating table.

After seeking legal advice and with the mandate and support from our members and affiliated Learning Centres, we reached an agreement in suspending our service in providing Referees or Match Officials at all levels of rugby.

On Thursday evening (14/07/2016), which was the deadline that we gave FRU, the FRU CEO called me on my mobile phone to discuss on the issue?

To me it was just another delaying technique that FRU was using for the last three or four months but with no genuine effort or motive to resolve the issue – but our deadline was final, thus resulting in the action which all our members and affiliated Learning Centres have decided and unwaveringly supported.


Right to form an association

I believe that it is our Constitutional Right to form our Collective Bargaining Unit or National Association. Forming a legal and constitutional, and registered national body was always being there during our Fiji Rugby Referee Association (FRRA) era.

But unfortunately our former FRRA suffered a slow death when the FRU Referee Unit was established, under the former IRB HPU Development Programme.

The funds and roles of our former FRRA were slowly and unceremoniously being taken away from the FRRA executive and were carried out by the newly established Referee Unit.

It was from then that each individual local Referee Association was responsible in the running and administering their individual local affairs and development, without a common voice.

I was the last chairman of the former FRRA, which we have now renamed as RROFA.

In the last seven or eight years we have been unsuccessfully trying to revive and/or re-establish our former national body – FRRA, despite so many calls and request from our various local associations and individual members.

It was through James Bolabiu’s development programme visitations and pocket meetings last year, that enabled us to slowly come together again and thus the idea of reviving and/or re-establishing our national association was resurfaced, of which we have successfully followed all processes and procedures, including our close consultation with the FRU executives at Rugby House, resulting in our newly established and registered National Association –which we have renamed as RROFA.

It was through Bolabiu’s visitation and pocket meetings, under the HPU Referee Development Program, and through a lot of SWOT Analysis process and activities in those various meetings that we reached an agreement and resolve that some of the issues that is facing some of our local LC’s can be looked after and managed by the various local LC’s but now with the assistance and full support of our RROFA to bring about professionalism, good governance, and especially consistency in Law knowledge, interpretation, and application.


Major issues faced

One of the major issues was the inconsistency and poor administrative and the management of some of our local Learning Centres (LC’s).

Some LC only meets on Saturdays on the ground during their local club games competition. Some do not even meet or have proper training and development programmes and activities within the week.

Some only conduct informal meeting and discussion (or development) around the kava bowl.

Some do not even have a proper or formal meeting place like school classroom to conduct their weekly training/education and development programme etc, etc. Thus the resolve and determination among our members and our various local LC’s, to legally and formally revived and re-established our national body, and it was through all the inclusive, transparent, and democratic process followed, in the eyes and in consultation with the FRU executive management, that we were able to accomplished our goal.

It was also through the same process and protocol that the name of our newly revived national body was changed to RROFA. And as I have stated above that the change of name was discussed, with submission received, and agreed through vote.

Yes, a few may have not agreed but the majority counts – and that is true and transparent democracy.

Apart from the major issues stated above, our newly revived and re-establishing national body is also tasked to look into the affairs and welfares of our member and to protect their interest and concern.

Our HPU Referee and MO’s Panels (Elite and Development) are looked after, administered, and managed by the FRU Referee Unit, in is as far as national and international duties or appointments are concern. But other members LC’s, who are not part of the FRU HPU Panel, are to be looked after, administered, and managed by their various local LC’s Committee through the assistance and full support of RROFA.

These HPU Referees and MO’s Panel are not a Referee Association.

They are just a group of elite Match Official (Referees, AR’s, Sub-Managers, Referee Coaches, Match Reviewers, etc) who are being identified and selected from the various local Learning Centres, because of their special skills, knowledge, talent, and body fitness and performance.

They are first a member of their local Learning Centres before they are selected to join the HPU Panels.

So they are not only bound by the HPU Panels rules, regulations, and code of conducts but first and foremost by their local Learning Centres rule, regulations, and code of conducts.

This is where the FRU Referee Unit comes in as a link and channel between the FRU and RROFA in as far as our member’s welfare, affair, and interest are concern.

Our action last weekend on Saturday was not my call but the call of our affiliated Members and LC’s who elected me, with their faith and trust, that I will carry out their mandate and to protect their interest and concern.

We are not a group disgruntled Referees and MO’s, as uttered by the FRU CEO, but we are a legally and constitutionally recognised Association.

And as I have stated earlier, that we have our constitutional and human rights to form our collective bargaining unit or association and I believe that the FRU have a constitutional responsibility and obligation to respect our right and recognise our collective resolve and determination.


Refs body not against FRU

We are not against the FRU, or try to cause division to the Fiji Rugby or our referee family within Fiji, or have any personal grudges whatsoever against anyone within FRU or within our referee family. But we are against the process in place that is practised within the FRU Referee Unit – which has affected and demoralised our members thus taking away positive interest and healthy competition among our young and aspiring members. We are against the selection process and procedures used by the FRU Referee Unit where referees are selected not on merit or performance based.

Some who are not even being active or member of an association are being appointed or selected not only for our Provincial Competitions but also in International games and appointments.

Some of our members who are being inactive or being away from their local association for a while and were not participating in any of the local club games competitions were just being called and appointed into our Provincial Skipper Cup Competition.

Some of our members who are not even attending or fail in the HPU Panel Development and Fitness Training and Test are being selected over those who attended and those that passed.

Some even jump from and AR Panel in the U20 competition in one season right up to Premier Games Referee in the next season – how can that be justified?

When members voice their opinion and/or disagreement are being victimised by being stepped down or side-line from being appointed in the next round of our Provincial Competition. If we are following our Skipper Cup Competition closely every week, we will notice that one of our member have been controlling Suva’s Games from almost five rounds and have only miss maybe two rounds – has never happened within our Referee Family.

I would like to remind and inform all Rugby Unions (Teams, Players, Official, and Supporters), Secondary Rugby (Parents, Teachers, Students, and Old Scholars, etc.) throughout the country to be watchful and cautious of the calibre and quality of Referees and Match Officials that are currently being appointed to officiate in their games by the Referee Unit, under the current selection process.

The FRU Referee Unit have sometimes entertained Union’s demand to choose or change the appointed referee to their games and sometimes used their link or network within the FRU and FRU executive to put pressure on the FRU Referee Unit to change or interfere with the appointment process – again something that has never happened before.
Causes of division

During this impasse or stand-off between FRU and RROFA, the Referee Unit have been going around calling, contacting, and approaching our members individually who have been inactive for quite a while now in the local LC’s, to come in and sign an FRU contract and straight into the field.

Even those that were being suspended for disciplinary issues from their local LC’s are being taken in by the Referee Unit and are being appointed in the National and Provincial Competitions.

The handling of funds during some of the major sevens tournaments around the country is not being transparently and accountably handled and distributed by the Referee Unit or some of our senior members appointed by the Referee Unit.

Some of our members who are being suspended from their local LC’s in relation to abuse of their LC’s funds and other disciplinary issues are being accepted and appointed by the Referee Unit to officiate in our Secondary School Rugby and also in the Provincial Competition.

Overseas invitation to our local referees are being unprofessionally being handled by the FRU Referee Unit by being appointing themselves first and their own crony within one of our local Referee Association without disseminating the invitation to all the Referee Family around Fiji and follow the normal and professional procedures that we used for the selection of the Referees and MO’s to go for international appointment and invitation that was used when we send our members to an invitation from Tonga last year.

The FRU Referee Manager even took some of his own favourite members within a local LC’s without consulting and following transparent process, procedures, and protocols within that local association.

And those that the FRU Referee Manager took with him to this appointment are some of our senior members who are almost near their retirement and are not a regular running referee, thus taking away positive opportunities to our young and aspiring Referees.

The deteriorating terms and conditions, unrealistic allowances, and welfare of our members who are appointed to games/tournaments that is run and/or sanctioned by the Referee Unit, in as far as Match Official is concerned, on behalf of the FRU, is an eye sore.

It was during this stand-off with the current executive management at Rugby House and with collusion with the FRU Referee Unit, FRU have unprofessionally approached our members individually to sign a “Contract”, with the Terms and Condition that have been pre-determined by FRU for our members to sign, despite the fact that FRU and the Referee Unit knew we have a legal collective bargaining unit.

Most of our members are being victimised and signed under duress, and with promise that they will be issued with uniforms, referee attire etc, in FRU’s effort in trying to dis-empower our resolve and determination, and commitment to our association.

It was through this exercise that have enable FRU and the FRU Referee Unit to cause division within our Members and Association – who was all along with us in the reviving and re-establishing process of our Association right from the very outset.

I would like to reiterate again, that RROFA are not against the FRU or anyone within FRU or to cause division within the Fiji Rugby or our Referee Family within Fiji.

Like I have stated earlier is that the reason why we revived and re-established our national body is to help and assist FRU and the FRU Referee Unit in putting our promoting and enhancing professionalism, good governance, transparency and accountability within our Referee Family with all its systems, processes, procedures, and protocols.



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