COMING SOON: Vodafone Fiji Ltd donated thousands of dollars to SDL's business arm Duavata Initiative Ltd to fight the 2006 general election!
That person can now be revealed to be Fiji’s Special One Waisale Serevi – who has close relations with the Irish telecoms giant from when he was coach of the Fiji 7s side, when Digicel were its sponsors, and as a paid brand ambassador for the Digicel brand.
No confirmation was immediately available from Serevi or any of his representatives, but two sources within Rugby House have confirmed to Fijileaks that Serevi was the conduit for the players to receive their overdue bonuses which have been distributed according to the usual bonus protocols.
The startling news that Serevi, Fiji’s favourite sporting star bar none, has thrown his enormous popularity behind the cause of the Fiji 7s players shows how desperately unpopular Vodafone’s involvement with the Fiji Rugby Union has become.
Vodafone’s payment of the $20,000 bonus to the players for winning a 2014/2015 IRB 7s Series tournament has been delayed for reasons not explained by either Vodafone or the FRU and is such a bone of contention that even the timid Fiji media are asking questions.
The $20,000 offer is already $5000 less than Vodafone’s managing director promised to pay when they took over the sponsorship rights at the start of 2014 for any tournament wins in the remaining fixtures of the 2014 series. That $25,000 is already a cut of almost 2/3rds from the figure the team was playing for in seasons 2012/2013 and the first half of the 2013/2014 series, when Digicel were still the team’s title sponsors, and were paying the team a win bonus of $67,000.
Many questions still remain unanswered over Vodafone’s purported $40m, 5-year sponsorship agreement with the FRU which includes the enormously popular Fiji 7s team. Because of the repeated postponement of the FRU’s annual general meeting, provincial union delegates have not been able to cross-examine the FRU directors responsible for agreeing terms with Vodafone – which was heavily pushed by the FRU chairman Filimone Waqabaca, the permanent secretary Finance.
It now appears clear that Vodafone offered at least $7m less cash over the same period time than Digicel offered – which is why the sponsorship contract is subject to a High Court action.
For its part Vodafone huffed and puffed in a corporate press release that Digicel’s actions were nothing more than a ‘cheap ploy.’ The mobile giant added, ‘Wonder how FIRCA will treat such mysterious payments through a mysterious person?’ [They also referred to the Rio Olympics is taking place in 2015, and not 2016.]
Vodafone and the FRU will be praying that the involvement of a player of Serevi’s status – to facilitate payments promised but not delivered – will not catch the media’s imagination like a similar protest organised by the players of Manu Samoa against the Samoan Rugby Union. World opinion has fallen very much on the side of the players and against the Union, with Test players lining up to show their solidarity under #samoaunited
In the letters page of the Fiji Times (November 24), four letter writers were strongly in favour of Digicel, sharply criticising Vodafone (‘If Vodaphone [sic] and their consortium together with Rugby House do really care about the welfare of players and rugby for that matter, then the players ought to have been paid their bonuses for the Gold Coast Sevens win within two weeks after winning.’) while none supported the government’s favoured mobile network Vodafone.
Safe to assume that the Sri Lankan expat cabal of so-called marketing experts at the heart of the Vodafone-led FRU sponsorship consortium must be muttering dark thoughts about Waisale Serevi.
Digicel to pay Gold Coast 7s heroesDigicel makes $20,000 ex gratia payment to the heroes of the Gold Coast Sevens tournament:
Digicel confirmed today that a strong desire to ensure players are recognised for their outstanding achievements and motivated to continue is behind the mobile company making a $20,000 ex gratia payment to members of the winning Fiji Sevens squad from the Gold Coast tournament held in October. The company said it was concerned about recent coverage in the media concerning financial support for the national team.
Digicel Fiji Chief Executive Officer, Darren McLean says the company wants to see that there are no unnecessary distractions and that the positive momentum continues. “This is an important year for sevens rugby and I congratulate the coaching team for a fantastic start in the World Series with that great victory in Gold Coast last month but they can’t lose momentum as the top four places in the World Series qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. This ex gratia payment is about trying to ensure that the players are able to focus fully on their preparations.”
Digicel Fiji has proudly supported various sporting teams in Fiji since 2008. This has included sponsorships associated with Fiji’s number one national sporting body the Fiji Rugby Union. The mobile telecommunication company supported the FRU in 2006 even before getting a license to operate in the country. Digicel had announced in May 2006 a multi-million dollar deal for four years to sponsor the Fiji National 7s team, which was subsequently renewed.
Aside from the Fiji National 7s team Digicel also sponsored the local provincial competition known as the Digicel Cup from 2008 which supported the development of players at grassroots and provincial level. Digicel has also in the past sponsored various other sports federations and teams including Fiji Pearls Netball, the National Netball Champs, Suva Volleyball club league, Fiji Paralympics Sports, and the IRB Pacific Nations Cup in 2009. Digicel is proud to have been a financial supporter of these competitions and teams.
McLean added, “You need to look after these world class players and we need to treat them well if we are to retain them. I feel for these players who work so hard and put their bodies on the line for the country, bringing joy all across Fiji with their performances on the world stage.”
Digicel is delighted that the Fiji 7s Team has in recent years achieved outstanding results such as the only World Series title win in 2005/2006, the Gold medal win at the World Games in Taiwan 2009, the famous Hong Kong victory in 2009, 2011 and 2012 along with other tournament victories on the IRB World Series. Digicel believes in recognising talent and rewarding national talent for outstanding world class performances.