The former Vodafone 7s coach Ben Ryan’s Tweet that the Fiji Rugby Union is losing commercial supporters is correct
In addition, Fiji Airways has started discussions with the FRU about scaling back their commitment which to the end of April 2016 was worth $420,000 a year in cash and just under $500,000 in value in kind airfares.
Ryan’s information about the status of the FRU sponsors is likely to be first hand. He is still a brand ambassador for Fiji Airways and has worked extensively for Tourism Fiji, including attending the World Travel Market in London, at which Fiji Airways also had a heavy presence.
The collapse of BLK has meant that the apparel company will not be able to complete its agreement with the FRU. In the latest annual report, the relationship was worth $128,000 in cash income and over $400,000 in sportswear for the various teams that the FRU runs.
Carpenters Motors contribution to the FRU is recognised as the provision of motor vehicles to the value of $283,000.
All three of the companies are key elements in the FRU’s commercial programme which, according to the last FRU annual report, is run by Inoke Bainimarama, nephew of the prime minister. The PM’s brother-in-law Francis Kean is the FRU’s chairman and his son-in-law Sale Sorovaki, former national 15s captain, is the head of development.
At the centre of the Inoke Bainimarama’s work is servicing the Vodafone sponsorship consortium which took over the title sponsorship of the Fiji 15s and 7s team in early 2014.
Vodafone was thrilled to announce that they were investing $40m into the Fiji Rugby Union over five years, a figure also championed by then FRU chairman (and Prime Minister’s nominee) Filimone Waqabaca. Waqabaca’s day job at the time, as permanent secretary Finance, might suggest he had a competency in finance.
But he did not because Vodafone’s cash commitment to the FRU amounted to no more than $12m over five years, but from that cash contribution VAT had to be paid on the whole of the $40m figure.
The sponsorship only reached $40m because Vodafone was allowed to pad out the numbers by including meaningless promotions and marketing exercises, spends on morning teas etc. For the first two years of the sponsorship – 2014 and 2015 – Vodafone did not even present a breakdown of their own expenditure to the FRU.
When former CEO Radrodro Tabualevu wrote a letter to the chairman and CEO of Vodafone to demand action on these points, Vodafone’s response was to pay for the Prime Minister and family members to attend the 2015 Rugby World Cup as their guests and the issue was shelved by FRU chairman Kean.
Tabualevu resigned shortly afterwards