Samoan Rugby Union 'bankrupt' as RFU pledge £75,000 'goodwill gesture' in attempt to keep autumn Test alive

Samoa due to face Scotland and England this autumn but future has been plunged into doubt

Jack de Menezes
Wednesday 08 November 2017 15:25
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Samoan prime minister and SRU chief executive Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao has declared the union 'bankrupt'
Samoan prime minister and SRU chief executive Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao has declared the union 'bankrupt'

The Rugby Football Union will make a goodwill payment of £75,000 to the Samoan Rugby Union after it was declared bankrupt on Wednesday, with the Pacific Island’s prime minister holding a radiothon all day in an attempt to generate donations.

Samoa are scheduled to face Scotland this weekend and England in three weeks’ time in the autumn internationals, but both Tests are now in doubt after the union was declared “insolvent” on Wednesday by prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao, who is also the chairman of the SRU.

He confirmed that there is not enough money for the players to be paid for this autumn’s Tests, and also added that they could not even be insured for the games because the union is “bankrupt”.

The shortage of money among the Pacific Islands – in particular Samoa – has been common knowledge a number of months, yet little has been done to help filter the large amounts of money that are in the game down to the smaller tier two nations. World Rugby has been urged to carry out a review into the governance of the SRU, but as yet have not taken any action.

The RFU confirmed on Wednesday that they will offer a “goodwill gesture” of £75,000 to Samoa – the same as what they offered Fiji last year – as well as cover all over their costs while they are in London, with the Scotland Rugby Union also set to cover costs.

However, the offer fewer than 10 per cent of what the RFU generate from home Tests at Twickenham, with a sum of around £10m generated whenever England play at home.

Sailele Malielegao revealed that the SRU cannot afford to pay or insure players

Speaking to Samoa Observer, Sailele Malielegao said: “We are bankrupt. In other words we are insolvent. It means the Union cannot continue to pay off our debts with the banks. We also need money to pay the players so they can continue to play.”

Samoa has played at every Rugby World Cup bar the inaugural tournament in 1987, and reached the quart-finals at their first two attempts in 1991 and 1995. However, the Pacific Islands have been somewhat depleted of its best talent over the last two decades as improving developments in travel and emigration have meant that a number of fledgling players have ended up representing New Zealand or Australia, having moved to the Antipodes for club rugby reasons.

It's a dark day for the rugby world

Dan Leo

As such, results have dropped off in recent times, and having pushed England close at the 2003 Rugby World Cup, Samoa have experienced pool stage exits at every global tournament since.

Former Samoa international Daniel Leo, who has since taken up a leading role as programme director at the recently-formed Pacific Rugby Players Welfare, labelled it a “dark day for the rugby world”, but confirmed that the PRPW are working on setting up a process that will enable fans to help save the future of Samoan rugby.

Samoa are due to play Scotland this Saturday and England in three weeks

The news could well throw Samoa’s games against Scotland and England into doubt, should the players not wish to take the risk of turning out without insurance unless the funds can be generated before the game takes place. The match at Murrayfield this weekend kicks off at 14:30, with the game against England scheduled for the same time on 25 September.

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