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Bankrupt Samoa to face World Rugby scrutiny

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Samoa’s Paul Perez in action during his match against France. REUTERS

WELLINGTON (AFP) – World Rugby said yesterday it will look at the game’s governance in Samoa after administrators in the Pacific nation admitted they were bankrupt and could not pay their bills.

Samoa Rugby Union (SRU) chairman Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao pleaded with the public for financial support this week, launching a fund-raising radio phone-in.

“We are bankrupt. In other words we are insolvent,” Malielegao, who is also the country’s prime minister, told the Samoa Observer.

“It means the union cannot continue to pay off our debts with the banks. We also need money to pay the players so they can continue to play.” Samoan rugby has been dogged by claims of mismanagement and political interference for years.

A report penned by former national captain Mahonri Schwalger after the 2011 World Cup accused management of being unprofessional and treating the tournament like a holiday.

Then in 2014, players threatened to boycott Samoa’s Test against England at Twickenham due to lack of financial transparency and poor treatment by management.

At the time, Malielegao dismissed the player complaints as the “opinions of little kids”.

World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper said his organisation would examine SRU’s problems.

“There may be some governance issues here that we need to take a closer look at,” he told Sky Sports UK.

“They have occurred in the past and we’ve sat down with them and helped them in different ways to get themselves back on their feet.”

But Gosper warned the SRU could not simply expect a handout, saying World Rugby was already the largest financial contributor to the sport in the Pacific island nations of Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.

He said it had budgeted about $9.2 million for Samoan rugby between 2015 and 2019, up 30 percent on the previous four-yearly World Cup cycle.

Samoa play Scotland at Murrayfield tomorrow and England at Twickenham on November 25.

Ahead of the England match, the RFU have reportedly agreed to give Samoa $98,300 from the gate takings.

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