Fiji face being kicked out of Rugby world cup

The International Rugby Board has threatened to expel Fiji, preventing its participation at this year’s World Cup, because the nation’s military regime has attempted to depose the entire Fiji Rugby Union.

The government of military leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama threatened to withhold 3 million Fiji dollars ($1.6 million) in funding for its World Cup bid unless the board and executive members of the Fiji Rugby Union resigned over alleged mismanagement of a fundraising lottery.

The IRB warned Fiji that any contravention of the union’s constitution could result in its expulsion from the world body and its exclusion from international rugby.

The Fiji Rugby Union on Sunday declined to accept the resignation of its chief executive Keni Dakuidreketi, suggesting it had been emboldened by the IRB ultimatum.

Board members had previously offered to resign en-masse ahead of the union’s scheduled April annual meeting which has the power to elect and dismiss official.

The IRB warned Fiji that “in light of the prevailing circumstances that there should be no changes within the senior management structures of FRU.”

In a letter to the Fiji union, the IRB also said a special general meeting scheduled for Jan. 29, which would have considered the future of the board in light of the military government’s recent ultimatum, should not proceed.

The IRB warned “that any action in contravention of the constitution of the FRU will result in the Union potentially not remaining in good standing as a member of the Union of the IRB which may result in the IRB having to take a determination on the continued membership of the IRB of the FRU.”

The notice of special general meeting has since been rescinded.

The IRB said chairman Bernard Lapisset and chief executive Mike Miller hoped to convene an urgent meeting with the current FRU board in early February. It said the current board meets all the requirements of governance and approved of its development of the game.

The actions of the military regime followed an investigation by the Fiji Commerce Commission of a lottery conducted by the Fiji union to raise funds for the nation’s participation in the World Cup in New Zealand in September and October.

The investigation found that ticket sales and receipts could not be reconciled and that funds may have been used for purposes other than those advertised.

The IRB noted the Fiji union is contesting the commission’s findings and said issues around the lottery should remain between the union and the commission.

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