As rugby coach Ben Ryan waits for $300,000 in unpaid salary, 15s coach Inoke Male and five others unceremoniously get the boot from FRU
Also booted out are logistics manager Semi Rogoyawa, Sevens administrator Priya Cook, storeman Maretino Atonio and
By VICTOR LAL
The Fiji Rugby Union has been forced to lay off five employees – including popular national 15s coach Inoke Male – as the International Rugby Board’s $3.3m financial sanctions over the military-dominated administration’s woeful running of the national game start to bite.
The unlucky five including a Rugby House kitman and a janitor were called in one by one to the office of acting CEO Dr Berlin Kafoa to receive their enveloped termination letters as the FRU struggles to balance the books after the IRB confirmed they would be withholding the annual development grant of £1m, almost three years after the Bainimarama government took control of the FRU by forcing fresh board elections using funding for the 2011 Rugby World Cup as an inducement.
The IRB has so little faith in the running of the FRU – led for two years from 2011 by the Land Force commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga as chairman, and now by permanent secretary Finance Filimone Waqabaca – that they wanted to appoint their own hand-picked director to safeguard the IRB funding.
As if the sackings were not bad enough, word from Las Vegas is that Ben Ryan has still not been paid a penny of the $300,000 salary promised by the Fiji National Sports Commission, run by one of Bainimarama’s daughters. It’s understood the FNSC is holding up all FRU payments until they are satisfied with the paperwork and acquittals provided by the FRU for the three-Test tour of Europe late last year which was partly-financed by Commission.
That process of financial reconciliation could now take even longer as Male was coach of the Europe tour, and another of the sacked employees, Semi Rogoyawa was the tour’s logistics manager.
And to top off all the drama and intrigue, mystery still surrounds the outcome of the biggest and potentially most controversial sponsorship deal in the country’s history, even though the key Fiji Rugby Union board member in charge of sponsorship has returned after an invigorating detox programme that involved daily bowel cleansing, male on male full-body massages and spiritual readings and lessons.
Supermarket tycoon Baljeet Singh, who has successfully whipped up the fevered competition between Vodafone and Digicel, was an inpatient at the Rakiraki-based Masada Practice run by Dr Epeli Nailatikau.
It’s understood that Singh and the rest of the FRU board were stunned by Digicel’s decision to match the $5-6m per annum offer from a Vodafone-led consortium, as was their right under Digicel’s just-expired FRU sponsorship agreement.
And the board are not really certain how to proceed without risking the ire of prime minister Frank Bainimarama.
A press conference to unveil regime-friendly Vodafone as the new lead sponsor, along with Fiji Airways, C J Patel, Merchant Finance and Fijian Holdings, was scheduled by the FRU for January 17 and then cancelled at the last minute – but so late in the day that the Fiji Airways CEO had already left Nadi for Suva.
In between all of the sackings, the FRU board have now asked for two separate outside counsel to test what flexibility there is to proceed with Vodafone in spite of Digicel’s offer.
Dictating dictator daddy's agenda: It’s understood the FNSC is holding up all FRU payments until they are satisfied with the paperwork and acquittals provided by the FRU for the three-Test tour of Europe late last year which was partly-financed by Commission. And the FRU board are not really certain how to proceed without risking the ire of prime minister Frank Bainimarama.