The Pacific Rugby Players welfare group says the sport’s governing body, World Rugby, will not engage with it over its Seats at the Table campaign.
The campaign calls for greater representation of Pacific Island countries on the World Rugby Council.
The group’s director Dan Leo said it was important World Rugby heard from a stakeholder not beholden to it.
“World Rugby don’t want to engage with us. They’ll only engage in formal conversations with the unions and the players associations that they fund,” Leo said.
“Effectively what they are saying is ‘unless you’re on our payroll we won’t talk with you,'” he said.
“So they’re not impartial, they’re not getting an independent voice.”
Currently, Oceania Rugby, which represents 12 countries in the region, holds just two of the 48 council seats.
But Pacific Unions were afraid to speak up about about the imbalance because they relied on World Rugby Funding, Leo said.
“We’ve seen it with Samoa having to sack their coach because World Rugby wouldn’t fund it because they didn’t believe in the integrity of the appointment process,” he said.
“We’ve seen it in Fiji and Samoa’s criticism of the Seats at the Table campaign, a campaign that is actually for their benefit, which is absolutely preposterous.”
The opposition to the campaign had only reaffirmed the group’s responsibility to speak up on behalf of Pacific nations, Leo said.
“They’re so reliant on that funding that they’ve lost their voice. My fear is that it’s the same with the World Rugby funded players’ associations,” he said.
“You point me in the direction of any other players’ unions, or unions in any other walk of life that are funded by the industry. You won’t find one.
“We’re totally independent. We can call things as we see them. We have one agenda and that is the rights and welfare of our members.”
And even if Fiji, Samoa and Tonga were to earn seats on the council, Leo said there would still be a need for the group to advocate on behalf of Pacific players.
“One seat, when all of the Tier One nations have three seats is not going to make a difference. You’ll never be able to challenge the hierarchy.”
“So even if they were to be given a token one seat each nothing changes in terms of player welfare, the Pacific Island funding model, eligibility laws, they’d never be able to challenge [through] the voting process.”