Broke Tonga look for government bailout

Tonga (AP)
Tonga (AP)

Nuku'alofa - The head of the Tonga Rugby Union (TRU) says the organisation is in receivership and is negotiating a rescue package with the Pacific island nation's government.

Interim chairperson Fe'ao Vunipola said the TRU had debts of 300 000 pa'anga (US$130 000) and could not afford to pay staff salaries.

The bulk of the debt was owed to a Hong Kong-based firm behind a 2012 uniform deal with the union, Vunipola told the Matangi Tonga news website on Wednesday.

He said the TRU was officially placed in receivership last October, prompting World Rugby to suspend a £600 000 (US$850 000) grant due to be paid in mid-March.

Vunipola, a former Tonga international and the father of England duo Billy and Mako Vunipola, said he was discussing a rescue package with the government.

"At the moment they are drawing up a plan - shall I say a rescue plan or takeover plan," he told Radio New Zealand International.

"It sounds good, it sounds favourable and we are currently talking of the best way forward for Tonga Rugby, in association with our government helping us out in the long run."

He told Matangi Tonga that part of the proposed deal would involve installing the country's Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva to be the President of the TRU.

Vunipola also said World Rugby representatives would be in Tonga early next month for meetings with the TRU and government that he hoped that would result in payment of the suspended grant.

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