World Rugby and TRU meet to resolve “administrative” issues before funding released

The World Rugby said it could release its funding for Tonga for 2016 once they agreed on how the Tonga Rugby Union (TRU) is going to deal with a number of “administrative” and “governance” issues they both accepted.

In an email to Kaniva News the General Manager, Asia & Oceania Rugby, William Glenwright said “we have not yet agreed the 2016 Development and High Performance Investments to the Union”.

It was understood the World Rugby and TRU representatives are meeting in Nuku’alofa today.

Glenwright said:  “the World Rugby is absolutely committed to the growth of rugby in Tonga and the purpose of our meetings is to agree on a process to address these concerns”.

“We are confident that after the meetings [this] week we will be in a position to finalise our 2016 Development and High Performance investments to the TRU,” Glenwright said.

His comment comes after it has been revealed TRU was heavily mired in debts and it could not pay its office staff and national rugby players who participated in the Pacific Challenge Cup last month.

The situation led to an infight between Feʻao Vunipola the current interim chair of TRU and the former management CEO Fuka Kitekeiʻaho and former president, ʻEpeli Taione.

Taione and Kitekeiʻaho accused Vunipola for not being transparent and accountable enough to World Rugby because it is the body that funded the development and high performance side of the rugby in Tonga.

They claimed this was the main reason behind the hold of the rugby funding.

Vunipola disagreed and claimed the World Rugby did not release its funding for 2016 because of arrears of TP$700,000 TRU owed to a sport marketing company, and TP$400,000 owed to New Zealand’s Mt Smart Stadium.

He claimed Taione and Kitekei’aho were responsible for these debts although the duo claimed they had plan in place for these arrears to be paid off by last month but they had left the union and did not have the opportunity to put that plan into action.

Taione and Kitekei’aho claimed the failure of the TRU to consult the World Rugby about expiry of  the contracts of former High Performance Manager Peter Harding and former ‘Ikale Tahi head coach Mana ‘Otai was the main reason behind the hold of the funding.

Although Vunipola reportedly denied this  Genwright clarified the situation to Fairfax Media last week and said:

“If they have chosen not to continue with the contracts of those staff then we want to understand why because we fund those positions in full.”

Vunipola said the government of Tonga has indicated it would help TRU whereever it can do to resolve its debts.