Tonga Olympic Committee backs call for governance change

The Secretary General of the Tonga Sports Association and National Olympic Committee believes there is a major issue with governance and administration of sport in the Kingdom.

Takitoa Taumoepeau is backing a call by former 'Ikale Tahi rugby captain, Inoke Afeaki, who is arguing for a new approach to be embraced by those in charge of Tonga's national sporting bodies.

"We have about 36 National Federation members, and out of those 36, I would say about 30 percent are quite active in their sport or national federation. The rest are more or less drifting or floating and to me that comes down to the governance and administration of respective sports," Taumoepeau said.

Tonga won a record 29 medals, including nine golds, at this year's Pacific Games in Samoa but Taumoepeau said the government needs to have a good working relationship with sporting organisations in the Kingdom if their success is to continue and flourish.

"Putting in place the programmes and pathways - that to me is one of the most important components of the journey," he said.

"But you know if you don't have those expertise and people to undertake and make sure these programmes are carried out in certain areas for the next five years then I think the result may not come to this [Tonga's recent success at the 2019 Pacific Games]."

Afeaki's role as programme co-ordinator for the Tonga Sports Council, which helped to oversee Tonga's Pacific Games team, ended last month.

He told RNZ Pacific the Tongan government appeared to be winding up the council but the deputy chief executive for Internal Affairs, Onetoto Anisi, who is responsible for Tonga's sport and recreation divisions, declined to comment when asked about funding cuts.

"We here in government - we just follow more or less on the policies - and also the council sports programme, called here the community sports programme, so we more or less training on those issues," he said.

"The high performance and the Olympic committee is totally outside of government."

Taumoepeau said he was unsure how many athletes Tonga would qualify for next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo with the limited resources available to them.