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Volume 7 No. 83
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Samoa Rugby Union Receives $350,000 In Pledges From Radiothon

More than $350,000 was pledged to the Samoan national rugby team and the Samoa Rugby Union "during a Radiothon," which ended Tuesday, according to Ulimasao Fata of the SAMOA OBSERVER. The fundraiser held at the Samoa Tourism Authority Fale and screened live on TV1 followed the public declaration by SRU Chair and Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi that the SRU is "insolvent." The proceeds are to "help pay for the insurance of Manu Samoa players who are in Europe for their Northern Hemisphere tour," which starts against Scotland on Saturday. It will also be used to pay the salary of coach Fuimaono Titimaea Tafua, whose appointment is being disputed by World Rugby. When the Radiothon ended, it announced "the money pledged was some $354,000." This includes a donation of more than $150,000 from a Chinese company (SAMOA OBSERVER, 11/8). In London, Daniel Schofield reported England's players are "set to donate part of their match fees" toward their Samoan counterparts. Mako Vunipola, the Premiership Rugby side Saracens prop who comes from a Tongan family, proposed donating at least £1,000 ($1,315) per player and there is reportedly "near universal agreement within the squad." England players each receive a £22,000 ($28,900) match fee -- which "far outweighs" the £650 ($850) payment to each of the Samoans from a sold out match at Twickenham on Nov. 25. The Rugby Football Union confirmed on Wednesday it would donate £75,000 ($98,600) toward the SRU "as a goodwill gesture." Under World Rugby's tours agreement policy, Samoa is "entitled to nothing more than expenses from the host nation" (TELEGRAPH, 11/9).

NO SCOTTISH AID: In London, Lewis Stuart reported Scotland's rugby officials "look ready to reject any suggestion that they should match their counterparts in England and help to bail out the Samoa side" that will play in front of a "record crowd" at BT Murrayfield. Reports that "the Pacific Islanders' money worries pose a threat to Saturday's match" -- 62,000 tickets have been sold -- "appear to be inaccurate." Malielegao admitted, though, that the union "would not be able to afford insurance premiums for its players." But these are underwritten by World Rugby, which is "certain to make sure the game goes ahead." Murrayfield made no comment on Wednesday on the "dire plight" of its opponent. Its position has been that Scotland has done its bit to help Samoa by playing a test in the country where the host kept all the proceeds, something England has "never done" (LONDON TIMES, 11/9).

MINNOW HELP: Also in London, Chris Jones reported World Rugby execs will "press leading nations to share match revenue to help smaller nations reap the kind of financial reward Samoa will miss" when it plays England and Scotland. Revenue sharing is reportedly "possible under the current agreement but not mandatory for the major Unions," which "rely on gate receipts to fund the sport in their own areas." World Rugby's exec committee is set to review the agreement in the wake of the SRU's declaration of bankruptcy. Any proposed change to the way the tours agreement is implemented would go to the World Rugby Council, which sits twice a year (EVENING STANDARD, 11/9). The AFP reported World Rugby said Thursday it will "look at the game's governance in Samoa." Samoan rugby has been "dogged by claims of mismanagement and political interference for years." World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper said that his organization would "examine SRU's problems." Gosper added, "There may be some governance issues here that we need to take a closer look at." But Gosper warned the SRU "could not simply expect a handout," saying that World Rugby was "already the largest financial contributor to the sport" in the Pacific island nations of Samoa, Fiji and Tonga (AFP, 11/9).

INSURANCE DISPUTE: REUTERS' Matt Westby reported World Rugby denied claims from Malielegaoi that the country's rugby union team "cannot afford to insure its players." A World Rugby statement published on Thursday, however, said that the sport's governing body had increased its indirect investment in the SRU's high-performance program to £1.5M ($1.97M) in '17. The statement said, "Specifically for the November window, this support package includes insurance cover under Regulation 9, underwriting assembly costs for a pre-tour camp, flights to and from Europe and participation in the Americas Pacific Challenge, a preparation and development tournament." Malielegaoi said, "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." The manager of the Samoan team, Aloi Alesana, however, said that "wages were still being paid on time." He said, "We are getting paid and we have everything we need. No one is worried" (REUTERS, 11/9).