Tonga NRL expelled from international rugby league, will appeal the decision

The International Rugby League (IRL) has confirmed its decision to expel Tonga National Rugby League. Picture: RNZ

SYDNEY/NUKU’ALOFA, 26 MARCH 2020 (IRL/TONGA RUGBY LEAGUE) – A new governing body will have to take charge of rugby league in Tonga after the Tonga National Rugby League (TNRL) was expelled from International Rugby League.

Following a dramatic fallout last year between the governing body and players, Tonga were pulled from the World Cup 9s and the international series including the Great Britain tour.

A deal was struck between the players and the organisers which saw them compete under the banner of Tonga Invitational, where they secured famous wins over both Australia and Great Britain.

The TNRL has been suspended since October, but their permanent expulsion from International Rugby League has now been confirmed following a Special General Meeting of the IRL board.

An IRL statement said: “TNRL had appealed the original decision and appeared at the SGM to present their case to the membership. The membership heard and were able to question testimony from TNRL and from IRL investigators before voting to confirm support for the Board’s original decision.

“IRL now expects, in due course, an application for membership to be received from the Tongan rugby league community.”

Tonga’s next scheduled test match against New Zealand in June has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Tongan National Rugby League (TNRL) has announced that they will appeal the decision made by the International Rugby League to confirm the expulsion of TNRL.

Speaking from Sydney Chairperson of The TNRL, George Koloamatangi said that it was time to put the IRL under the microscope and expose internationally the poor decisions and hard to fathom actions surrounding this expulsion.

“These guys (the IRL paid employees and Directors) have had to try very hard to get it this wrong,” he said.

They have ignored the greater good of the game and protecting the ongoing position of all member nations.

“The IRL have set a precedent that gives the IRL the power to expel any nation at any time – and for the IRL to ride roughshod over member nations when they choose to do so”’ said Koloamatangi.

“In the Tongan case they have ignored information from the Government of the Kingdom of Tonga, who through a letter signed by the current Prime Minister clearly expressed their approval of and support for the TNRL,” he added.

“They have not followed natural laws of justice regarding the rights of the TNRL and they have not followed standard protocols when it comes to deciding who may or may not vote at the final decision-making time,” he said. “The whole thing has been managed poorly”.

Kolomatangi also pointed out that the IRL have erred when in their press release the said – “IRL now expects, in due course, an application for membership to be received from the Tongan rugby league community.”

“The IRL have completely overlooked the point that the Tongan Government have decided and confirmed that the TNRL can be the only body approved to run the game of Rugby League in the Kingdom”.

Koloamatangi has confirmed that the TNRL lawyers have been asked today to proceed with filing a request for arbitration with the International Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“Our lawyers have also been asked to provide recommendations regarding applying for damages to be paid by the IRL.” said the Chairman, “and in this regard our claim could run into several million dollars,”

The TNRL has said it is probably too early to assess how other nations who voted to retain the TNRL as members may now react, given the suspension has been confirmed.

Rumours include an indication that these nations may decide not to participate in any IRL fixtures up to an including the 2021 World Cup.

“It’s a big call, but some nations are extremely nervous that they may suffer the same fate as the TNRL given what appears to be poor choices by the IRL.” said Koloamatangi.


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