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FRU replies to IRB funding announcement

Fru Board
Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) Board's response to the International Rugby Board (IRB) announcement that they will suspend direct funding to FRU.

The Fiji Rugby Union is committed to building a strong and sustainable union and expanding rugby in Fiji as a national and unifying force. Its mission and vision to be a top world class rugby nation determined to control its own destiny and future remain steadfast. The FRU Board, with assistance of many people who have rugby at heart, are working hard and with passion to ensure this happens.

While the FRU acknowledges the support of the IRB over many years, and indeed grateful to IRB for its continued assistance in many ways, it wishes to put on record facts about the suspension of IRB direct funding to FRU.

The Facts about IRB Funding, Funding Suspension and Review Report of FRU

The International Rugby Board has announced that "…it would be suspending funding to FRU after the FRU failed to agree to the implementation of key recommendations arising from a major union review conducted in May 2013".

IRB direct funding to FRU in 2013 totalled FJD3.3m. This funding does not finance the operating costs of FRU but funds programs of interest to IRB. This includes the funding of salaries of IRB appointed staff set by IRB and not FRU, the development unit which includes the high performance unit staff, the travel of IRB technical personnel and special projects approved by IRB. The funds are controlled by IRB. This funding cannot be used by FRU for any operational purpose it may identify.

FRU Board and management have to find funding support from sponsors and the government to manage the operating costs of FRU. This is what the Board has been pursuing aggressively in recent months.

In April 2013 a review of FRU was undertaken by the IRB of its funding to FRU. This took place before the new Board was elected on 27th April. A meeting of the new Board and IRB representatives was held in May 2013 to share the findings of the IRB review which the new Board welcomed. The report raised many issues and also made a number of recommendations. The final report of the review was not made available to FRU until July 2013. The FRU response to IRB was submitted in August 2013.

On taking up office, the new Board recognised the deficit that existed in FRU. This was the first urgent matter it had to deal with. It put in place a budget deficit reduction plan which aimed at reducing the deficit with a timeline of May 2014 to be in the black. The plan included the overhaul of the financing processes and procedures of the FRU with strict oversight of expenditure and operating costs. It also included no allowances for the Board Directors and also not filling the CEO position. Dr Berlin Kafoa, a Board Director is Acting CEO on voluntary basis since August 2013. It also analysed all the existing sponsors and sponsors contracts to maximize benefits. It completed a restructure plan for the FRU. It has also completed a review of the Constitution and is looking at greater assistance going to the provincial unions and assistance to current and past players.

These were some of the actions recommended in the IRB Review Report and which FRU was already acting upon. The one recommendation that was not agreed to be implemented by the FRU Board and communicated this to IRB was the recommendation that sought to appoint an outside interim Director to the Board to protect IRB interests and at the same time lead the implementation of the requested changes.

Further requests for funding by FRU to help with the Flying Fijians for the Northern Hemisphere tour and other requests were declined as FRU did not agree to the condition placed on them to take on the interim Director as directed by IRB. It agreed that it would clear its debts by May 2014.

FRU and work on recommended reforms

Turning the FRU to a sustainable, financially and administrative strong union practising good governance principles and processes and dedicated management team to continuously improve and develop rugby in Fiji, require a great deal of work and time. This was recognised by the new Board from the beginning when it took over FRU in May 2013.

FRU Board has worked hard in the past eight (8) months to implement the recommendations of the IRB review report. These included putting in place a framework and action plans for the areas of: governance and leadership; administration including constitution; finances and sponsorship; participation; training and education; competitions; women's rugby. These are all progressing well.

In the area of finance, a Finance Sub-Committee is responsible for oversight of the budget. There has been a major overall of all the financial processes with a new manual of procedures and operations which was never in place before. Debtors are being paid and there is more strict control of spending. There is an Acting Finance Manager in place with two volunteer graduate assistants working on the recommendations of the KPMG audit report. Their work and engagement are being overseen by a Board Director responsible for finance and Acting CEO of the FRU.

FRU has obtained the assistance of experts volunteering their time to help rugby and FRU. Assistance has been in the areas including: legal and governance, marketing, human resources, games management, training and capacity building, communications and public relations, and IT.

The FRU Board is determined to get its finances and other reforms completed as recommended in the IRB Review Report by May 2014 or earlier.

It should also be highlighted that the suspension of IRB funding support to the FRU is not due to government interference, but on the need for FRU to complete its actions on the recommendations of the IRB Review Report of FRU. The government has always supported FRU during critical periods.

FRU and IRB assistance going forward

IRB has confirmed that the funding suspension does not affect Fiji's participation in the International Sevens series in any way. The Fiji Sevens are forging ahead with training and planning for the tournaments and will continue to participate in all planned international competitions. This will also not have any impact on Fiji playing in the next two tournaments in Las Vegas and Wellington. The IRB sees the FRU as an important Union and knows that it is working towards improvements in its financial situation.

It also does not affect future requests made by FRU to IRB for expert assistance in special areas such as scrumming, kicking, game-plans, and also that relating to high performance unit. IRB has indicated that they will consider submissions from FRU should we wish. FRU has indicated that such assistance will only be made if there is a need.

In areas of coaching clinics and education and training of staff and union members in specialised areas, FRU would look to local institutions to assist and new partnerships.

The current FRU Board is committed to bringing about reform and change to FRU. It cannot be done overnight and so too it cannot be done without expertise and assistance from IRB. But we need to work in partnership in all the strategic areas.

Sponsorship and funding of FRU going forward

FRU has been encouraged by the overwhelming response from many businesses, individuals and interested organisations to its call for expressions of interest in sponsorship and helping Fiji Rugby move forward. This high expression of interest is attributed to the positive optimism brought by the new Board to the FRU reflected in the financial, administrative and governance measures it has introduced. This has also been acknowledged by the IRB.

But we have a deficit that has been accumulated over past years which we have to reduce or remove completely. This we will achieve through the support, dedication and commitment of all concerned stakeholders who have rugby at heart and who are willing to do something about it.

To move rugby forward, the Board and Union members all share the same objective which wishes to see FRU progress strongly as a viable, financially strong and internationally recognised sporting body which produces some of the best rugby players and teams in the world. We need your support, rugby lovers, to move rugby forward.

Rugby union is a national sport. It cannot develop strongly and FRU cannot operate fully without financial support and support in kind, big and small.

FRU is grateful to the Government of Fiji for its moral and financial support. The Government recognizes the importance and unifying force that rugby plays in the development of the nation.

It is also grateful to the many sponsors who continue to give FRU their support for many years, in good and bad times; and the individuals who are volunteering their time and expertise to make FRU a sustainable and financially strong organization.

The FRU Board is deeply grateful to all in Fiji who support rugby development and growth and we say thank you all, and we look forward to your continuing support of all our rugby players and rugby teams.

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