Tonga Rugby Union Is Broke, Heavily In Debt

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Under receivership since October, TRU can’t pay expenses

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, March 23, 2016) – The Tonga Rugby Union has gone broke and cannot pay the salaries of its staff, and its mountain of debts amounting to hundreds of thousands of Pa’anga that go back over several years, the President and the Executive Chairman of TRU, Fe‘ao Vunipola admitted today.

Fe’ao told the Matangi Tonga Online that the Tonga Rugby Union property and Office at Hala Salote, Fasi-moe-afi had been in receivership since October last year, when they could not keep up the repayment of their TOP$300,000 [US$131,000] debt to Carinat Sport Marketing, Hong Kong. Carinat was an agent that bought the uniforms for Tonga’s Under 20, Tonga A and the ‘Ikale Tahi teams in 2012.

He said that in October 2015 the Supreme Court had placed TRU assets under the receivership and ordered that the TRU pay Carinat Sport Marketing USD$1000 a month. The Carinat representative in Tonga is lawyer Ralph Stevenson.

Fe‘ao said that they have kept up the payments and had paid, probably, about USD$4000, but last month, February 2016, they could not keep up with the monthly payments.

They were looking forward for the 600,000 pounds annual contribution from World Rugby that was scheduled to arrive on 15 March but it did not materialise. World Rugby withheld their contribution because of the TRU's mounting debts and the fact that the Supreme Court had put TRU assets under receivership.

Fe’ao said that the only option left was to seek government assistance, and fortunately government was willing to hear their problems. He said that the Tonga Government had always been willing to prop up rugby, and during the last Rugby World Cup, contributed about $1 million to the Tonga Rugby Union.

Fe’ao said that he had informed Mr Stevenson, that he had consulted government and he was hopeful that government would help them. He believed the creditors were willing to give him more time to negotiate with government.

Amend Constitution

Meanwhile, Fe’ao planned to call a Special Meeting of the TRU on April 1 to amend the TRU Constitution in preparation for the Annual General Meeting at the end of April or early May.

The proposed amendment to the Constitution is for the Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva to be the President of the TRU, and for the election of a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman of the Board.

World Rugby

He said that World Rugby representatives will be in Tonga from April 5-7 to meet with representatives of the TRU and with government. He was hopeful that following these meetings the World Rugby would release their annual financial contribution to the TRU.

The current members of the Board of the TRU are: President and Executive Chairman, and his Deputy, Manu Mataele, with three representatives, one each from Vava’u, Ha’apai and ‘Eua, and a representative each from Eastern, Western and Tongatapu as a whole.

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