Rugby risks losing Pacific Is nations

Samoa helped to generate millions by playing England but go home with a measly £75,000 donation... rugby's broken economics just don't add up

Out of the 368 players who took to the field in last week's autumn internationals, 104 of those were Pacific Islanders. But how much money was banked back in Samoa, Fiji and Tonga?

Not a penny.

At Twickenham on Saturday, when England hosted Samoa, supporters flocked in - paying £60 a ticket and £6 a pint - and helped the RFU secure one of their biggest paydays of the year.

The RFU gave £75,000 donation as a gesture of goodwill but the sport's economics just do not add up. England will keep 100% of the profits and the richest will just get even richer.

If the Pacific Islands provided 28 per cent of this weekend's players – from England winger Semesa Rokodoguni to Samoa No 9 Melani Matavao – then why is that not reflected in our funding or rankings?

In my mind, there has to be value in that number. The Pacific Islands have contributed hugely to the success of the sport we now know. I'd like to think that we have credit in the bank. We now need to see a return on the investment that our Pacific people have contributed to the game.

The only way that this will be sustainable is to negotiate a share of Tier One gate takings.

England have never toured Samoa, but even if they should, it wouldn't help us financially. Hosting a team like England costs more than it generates. Our 11,000-seat stadium in Apia and third-world economy make it difficult to price tickets above £10. In 2015, we hosted the All Blacks and lost money.

There is an unhealthy mix of politics and sports in Samoa that must change if we are to move forward and reach our potential. The Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, is controversially the Chairman of our proud nation's Rugby Union and we have had our differences.

In 2014, I was involved in the side who made a push for financial transparency by threatening to strike against England at Twickenham. Malielegaoi calling us 'spoilt children', traitors who needed disciplining but our demands were met. Much water has passed under the brige since then.

Progress has been made but recently, Malielegaoi announced the Samoan Rugby Union was bankrupt. In his statement, he laid the blame squarely at the feet of World Rugby and the rich Tier One Nations. He said: 'If the gate sharing is not changed, the poorer unions cannot afford to continue on playing under these circumstances.'

 

Comment Here