Sport: Former Tonga Rugby boss hits back at criticism
The former head of the Tonga Rugby Union, Epeli Taione, has hit back at criticism of his tenure from the man who replaced him, saying the new regime is to blame for the current financial woes.
The former head of the Tonga Rugby Union says claims the organisation is broke are incorrect.
The Union's Interim CEO, Chair and President, Fe'ao Vunipola, said it is working with the government to address debts of more than $US300,000 that has left it unable to pay staff and World Rugby to suspend all financial support.
Epeli Taione resigned as President and Chair of the Union after the 'Ikale Tahi's disappointing World Cup campaign.
He told Vinnie Wylie the previous administration was on top of the debts and the real reason funding has been frozen is because the staff paid for by World Rugby were sacked without explanation.
EPELI TAIONE: There's only two debts that I know. One was Carinet (Sports Marketing), which happened in 2012. We came in and there was no kit deal in place and we decided to form up our own in-house kit and it didn't work out so we changed direction. That was 120,000 pounds and 40,000 quid has been paid towards that. The reason why we have a debt in Mount Smart Stadium is because the 'Ikale Tahi coach wanted an extra warm-up game - it's just a business deal that went sour - and the one with Finau Maka: there is no debt to those people. There is no case in place. We (in the former TRU administration) already had structured a payment in place (to pay off all the debts by March 2016).
VINNIE WYLIE: The interim chairman (Fe'ao Vunipola), he says the reason World Rugby halted those payments and the funding is currently frozen is all linked up with these debts. What is your understanding of that?
ET: That is so misinformed and it's very untrue. When the new regime took over...you cannot sack the high performance, manager, the coach and CEO, which is the main head of rugby, so obviously he didn't know where to start and I just think to be honest he's just completely out of his depth. All these words that they're saying that Tonga Rugby Union is broke is far from the mark, it's misinformed and it's untrue. We look after player allowances, we look after the float associated with tours so obviously World Rugby's funding is coming for high performance - which is about 650,000 pounds - and that of development. So all the staff under payment from World Rugby we have an agreement in place that they have to be adhered with and obviously why World Cup funding is freezing is because he (Vunipola) doesn't follow due process. He sacked all World Rugby staff left, right and centre with no due process in place - with no explanation. World Rugby has always been protective of their investment in the Pacific - it's a lot of money they pour in. If you in any way play up with that and don't follow instruction and due process when you get rid of staff paid by World Rugby the agreement in place is null in void on their eyes. I was quite nervous when I resigned because things haven't been really stable but I didn't realise it would be this bad. You cannot try to pull wool on people's eyes and say that it comes down to a debt of two hundred (thousand dollars) - come on! There is an agreement in place - it is black and white - what you cannot do and can do. We had an issue in the past between myself and him and his brother - because they were removed from the Union - so it is quite personal but it is mindless and it is low to come and try to character assassinate someone on the expense of the national interest.
VW: It's a very big month or two ahead: a new chair of World Rugby will be elected; there's the new seats (on the World Rugby Council) coming in which is a very big step for the Pacific - although you do have to to tick the boxes to get those - and then obviously Tonga Rugby Union is going to have its own meeting and have a new administration elected for another four-year term as well?
ET: Tongan Rugby really needs to sort this out. There's a lot of things that have been said which I find it untrue and misinformed. The truth of the matter is the reason why World Rugby funding is being frozen is because Tonga Rugby Union does not follow due process. It's a leadership issue and a governance issue that needs to be done ASAP.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: