Pacific Rugby Players welfare group has labelled news Samoa has accepted a seat on the World Rugby’s Council as a potential “smokescreen” by the game’s governing body.
Samoa Rugby Union (SRU) chief executive Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i confirmed to RNZ Pacific that Samoa’s bid for a council seat had been successful.
He said the World Rugby Council would ratify the decision at next month’s Executive Committee meeting, with SRU chair and Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi to occupy Samoa’s seat at the next World Rugby Board meeting in May.
But Pacific Rugby Players chief executive Dan Leo said, “while the awarding of Samoa’s council vote would certainly be a step in the right direction and testament to the campaign, it is certainly not mission complete by any stretch of the imagination”.
“Obviously I wish the Samoa Rugby Union and the Prime Minister well, if this is true, but at the moment all Tuila’epa is to World Rugby is the happy-faced islander that they need to defend a political regime that even the PM knows is absolutely indefensible,” said Leo, who played 39 tests for Manu Samoa.
A campaign launched in August by Pacific Rugby Players highlighted the under representation of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga on the World Rugby Council.
Even with the addition of Samoa, the Council would still be weighted overwhelmingly in favour of the tier one unions, who occupy at least 60 percent of the votes, Leo said.
“World Rugby continues to govern the game like those who found justification in segregation by using the intellectual defence of separate but equal,” he said.
“The game cannot be equal if the majority of the game’s unions are deliberately separated from the governance process.”
There was no sports body in the Olympic movement that had a constitution weighted like World Rugby that specifically excluded the majority of its members, the developing nations of the so-called tier two and three unions, Leo said.
“What the world of sport needs to focus on is that even if the Samoa news is confirmed, there could still be six tier two unions competing at the rugby World Cup next year who have no seat on the main political body, no vote for the chairmanship and even have no representative on the game’s many committee structures.”
“As a result of this lack of political representation, there is no pushback when Rugby World Cup organisers effectively handicap these tier two countries out of the tournament by giving them a much harder schedule than the richer tier one unions who have the permanent voting majority.”