SPORTS

Ryan’s ‘$52m Plan’

An ambitious venture termed to be a revolutionary plan is being worked on with the impossible task to end the player drain from the Pacific Islands by establishing a Super
16 Nov 2016 14:35
Ryan’s ‘$52m Plan’
Ben Ryan

An ambitious venture termed to be a revolutionary plan is being worked on with the impossible task to end the player drain from the Pacific Islands by establishing a Super Rugby franchise in Fiji. Former Vodafone Fijian 7s coach Ben Ryan and a group of interested investors who are behind the venture have claimed to have secured more than $52 million backing.

Details of the proposal have been revealed by London’s Daily Telegraph. It is understood that more than four global companies and two leading kit manufacturers have pledged to fund the proposal to create “the best club side in world rugby” on the island.

The new team, which could be operational by 2018, would be based in a new 20,000-seat stadium included in plans to develop the Port Denarau Marina, close to Nadi International Airport.

However, SUNsports is aware that the venture is being masterminded by Ryan with his interest to coach the franchise team.

And while the plan is being applauded, there are doubts that it will not be able to stop player drain since the proposed Super Rugby team could only accommodate a certain number of players while the rest are going to leave the islands for overseas clubs.

 

GAME CHANGER

Ryan, who guided Fiji to their historic first Olympic gold medal when they beat Great Britain in the sevens final in Rio, claims the move would be a “world game changer”. Some 19 percent of professional players worldwide are Pacific Islanders or of Pacific Islands descent.

“I believe the impact of this plan would see Fiji win the World Cup one day,” said Ryan.

“We have shown in sevens what we can do. And if you just look at the impact the Fiji players are having on the tier one countries, they are their star players in New Zealand, Australia, England and France. That generation has gone but the future players are there and we have to make sure they stay on the island and they get the right resource, the right coaching and the fundamentals around it, like we did with the sevens, so there is no reason why we can’t dominate.

“It is not pie in the sky. Pick a world XV from the players that are playing outside Fiji and Samoa in the other international teams and you would get a team that is there or thereabouts. We have got some of the biggest companies in the world backing this. They have ties with the Pacific Islands. I have had conversations and we have got money on the table to be able to pay for all of this. We will have more money behind the team than any other Super Rugby franchise.

“We could make them the best club side in the world. Imagine the talent that we have got in France? They would all be on the first flight back.”

PROPOSALS
The plan has yet to be endorsed by Super Rugby but Ryan has outlined the proposals to World Rugby.
“We have got more money than any other franchise in Super Rugby and we can guarantee that,” he said.
“Plus, we can build a new stadium that is a 10-minute drive from Nadi airport and surrounded by 20 five-star hotels. Also, 10 of the Super Rugby teams would be within a four-hour flight of the stadium.”
The move comes after World Rugby launched a working group to review the residency laws for international rugby, which allow players who have yet to make an international appearance to play for a country after having lived there for three years. That has led to Fiji, Tonga and Samoa haemorrhaging talent since the game turned professional in 1995.

‘PROJECT PLAYERS’
The current regulations have also led to the controversial practice employed by countries including Scotland and Ireland of signing “project players” to recruit talent from overseas who will qualify after three years.
“That generation has gone but the future players are there and we have to make sure they stay on the island and they get the right ¬resource, the right coaching and the fundamentals around it, like we did with the sevens, so there is no reason why we can’t dominate.”
Ryan believes a new Super Rugby franchise in Fiji, which could lead to a second one in Tonga, would have a much greater impact on the player drain than extending the residency qualifications from three to five years, which is under consideration.
“Currently, if you are a young Fijian who wants to play rugby professionally as a career, you can’t stay in Fiji.
“There are 165 Fijians playing in France alone. It is ridiculous. World Rugby is looking to change the residency law from three to five years, but I don’t think that will work because players will just go younger. For me, it comes back to giving us an opportunity on the island with a franchise. Super Rugby could own a part of it and it would keep everyone on the island and we could build academies, which would generate a pathway for players and coaches.
“Ever since I went to the island, I have been thinking about how we get Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to be consistent World Cup quarter-finalists and knocking on the doors of the semi-finals. The number one thing is to have a Super Rugby franchise. It is the simplest way of doing it. It sends the strongest message and would reap the quickest results.”
Edited by Marika Delai
Feedback: leonec@fijisun.com.fj

Feedback: leonec@fijisun.com.fj

 

 



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