Rugby risks being banished from the Olympics amid homophobia row

Rugby’s place in the Olympic programme could be terminated in the wake of the Francis Kean homophobia row, which has rattled Bill Beaumont’s candidacy for re-election.

Seeking a second term, the World Rugby chairman was endorsed by Kean and the Fiji Rugby Union.

But Kean, chairman of the FRU, was forced to stand down earlier this month after being accused of ‘rampant homophobia’ following a Sunday Times investigation into his time as Head of the Fijian Navy and the country’s prison service.

Convicted of manslaughter in 2007, the senior position Kean held within rugby has raised concerns over the sport’s vetting process.

Team GB had qualified for this year’s Games in Tokyo before it was postponed and re-arranged to the summer of 2021. But the IOC are facing calls to probe rugby to see if there is a breach of its strict code of ethics.

Dan Leo, former Wasps lock and Samoa international, has prepared a letter to be sent to the IOC outlining his concerns over how rugby is governed.

“We are taking advice from our lawyers about a letter we are drafting,’ Leo told the Daily Mail. “I’m disappointed that World Rugby haven’t launched an open investigation into Kean and France for nominating him.

“If World Rugby don’t commit to governance reforms, our next letter will be to the International Olympic Committee, asking that they consider suspending rugby as an Olympic sport until they are fully compliant with IOC obligations.

“If it takes some short-term pain, i.e. being blocked from the Olympics, then so be it. But hopefully the sport can be proactive in this before that would happen.”

The withdrawal of rugby from the Olympics would put to waste the years of lobbying by World Rugby to have sevens granted inclusion.

Following Kean’s resignation at the FRU and from the World Rugby council, the body released a statment.

“World Rugby notes the Fiji Rugby Union’s decision to stand down Fiji Rugby Union Chairman Ratu Vilikesa Bulewa Francis Kean from the World Rugby Council, and therefore withdrawing his candidature for the World Rugby Executive Committee, following new allegations published in the UK Sunday Times,” the World Rugby statement read.

“World Rugby takes all allegations of behaviour that is not in keeping with the sport’s strong and inclusive values and Bye-Laws extremely seriously.”

In 2009, rugby sevens was voted into the Olympics amid other campaigns from golf, squash, making its debut at the 2016 Rio Games.

Fiji claimed the gold medal from Team GB in the Men’s final, while the Women’s team missed out on bronze to Canada.

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