Fiji sees World Cup funds shortfall

2011-05-28 10:05

The head of Fiji’s rugby union says his organisation doesn’t have enough money to send a team to this year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, according to local media reports.

Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga says a report presented to the union’s board by team manager Pio Bosco Tikoisuva shows that 5 million Fijian dollars (about R19 million) is needed to properly prepare a team for the tournament, which starts in September.

Tikoitoga says the Fiji team has no major sponsor and the union is still in discussions with the government over its promised World Cup funding package of 3 million Fijian dollars.

He says a subcommittee has been formed to focus on the funding issue, including the search for sponsorship.

The government approved the release of the first 400 000 Fijian dollars of the promised World Cup fund last month but it is not clear if the union received the money or if the remainder will be paid.

The government had used its offer of financial assistance to pressure the union to sack its previous board, which had been in dispute with the country’s leaders over its management of a World Cup lottery.

All members of the previous board were voted out at the union’s annual general meeting last month and a new board headed by Tikoitoga was installed.

Fiji plans to hold its first trial for World Cup team places on June 3. It will then name an initial 50-man squad the following day.

Tikoisuva told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation yesterday that the country had a greater depth of players than in the past and could potentially take its best team ever to the World Cup.

Fiji, which reached the quarterfinals of the 2007 World Cup in France, previously had trouble gaining access to its top players, particularly its best forwards playing for clubs in Europe or Japan.

Tikoisuva said it seemed likely that all of Fiji’s overseas players would be available this year and there would be considerable competition for spots on the squad.

However, complicating matters is the fact that New Zealand Prime Minister International Rugby Board (IRB) has said his government will not bow to pressure from the International Rugby Board (IRB) to relax travel sanctions against Fiji during the World Cup.

New Zealand imposed measures that prevent Fijian citizens with links to the military regime from entering the country after Commodore Frank Bainimarama seized power in the island nation in a 2006 coup.

The sanctions will likely affect several Fiji rugby players.

“At the end of the day we don’t take our riding instructions from the IRB,” Key said in a radio interview.

“Our view is that we want to see democracy restored in Fiji. This is the only thing that we’ve got that holds their feet to the fire.” 

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