A Hawaii politician has questioned plans to set up a Pacific Islands owned Major League Rugby (MLR) franchise in the region.
Kanaloa Hawaii Rugby, whose backers include five former All Blacks, said earlier this month they had received provisional approval to play in the MLR from next year.
But State Senator Glenn Wakai told Hawaii News Now the announcement was premature.
Kanaloa Hawaii claimed to have established relationships with the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Stadium Authority, the University of Hawaii and Hawaiian Airlines.
But Wakai claimed the Hawaii Tourism Authority had never heard of them, the Stadium Authority had never talked to them, the University of Hawaii denied them practice facilities and Hawaiian Airlines had no sponsorship agreement.
“They’ve got less than a year to put this together. The fact that they haven’t actually contacted the Stadium Authority is very concerning to me,” he said.
But in a statement posted on Kanaloa Hawaii’s social media pages, CEO Tracy Atiga said the new franchise stand by their previous statements.
She said discussions with local organisations were ongoing and that many people were involved on different levels, but she did not directly respond to the Senator’s specific claims.
“As with all commercial and non-commercial partnership, sponsorship and supplier discussions; there are many people involved on different levels,” she said.
“These talking points can involve commercially sensitive areas for all parties concerned.”
Kanaloa Hawaii had since made contact with Wakai and said they were keen for all parties to work together to ensure the franchise was a success.
“We agree with the Senator, we may only get to launch something like this once, and it is important not only for us as a business entity, but more importantly for Hawaii this succeeds”, and embrace Senator Wakai’s request to “join our scrum” and look forward to working together,” she said.
“We back our statements we have shared publicly.”