BATH centre Josh Matavesi has slammed World Rugby over their handling of governance affairs in Fiji and backed calls by Pacific Rugby Welfare boss Dan Leo for the International Olympic Committee to get involved if rugby will not act.
Leo has waged a one-man war on World Rugby since it came to light last month that Sir Bill Beaumont’s bid for re-election as chairman was being backed by disgraced Fiji Rugby supremo Francis Kean, who has since stood down from his post.
Kean was convicted of manslaughter in 2007 and has allegations of homophobic abuse to answer, yet World Rugby allowed him to stand for election to their executive committee until a newspaper investigation made his position untenable.
Despite promises of a probe into Fiji’s governance, World Rugby have been slow to respond and Matavesi believes direct action by way of player strikes or potential Olympics exclusion may be the only way to force effective change.
Matavesi, who claims he is still owed money for air fares to and from last year’s World Cup, told The Rugby Paper: “It’s going to take something like that to make World Rugby stand up and ask, ‘What’s going on here?’. If they are not going to be accountable for making their funding to Fiji transparent, then who is?
“The next step has to be for the Olympics body to intervene. Year after year we have the same arguments about rugby governance in Fiji and the rest of the Pacific Islands but there’s never any accountability, never any improvements.
“All the news should be about our players, and winning Olympics gold in 2016 should have been the lift-off we needed. Instead it’s gone the other way – how can you allow someone convicted of manslaughter to be in charge of the game? There’s got to be better safeguards to prevent this happening – players deserve better.”
Matavesi added: “It’s tough playing for Fiji. There’s never enough kit or money to pay players and even though World Rugby say they are pumping money into the Islands, the problems are exactly the same in Samoa and Tonga.
“Fiji paid most of the World Cup allowances on time, but I still had to pay for my own flights from England to Fiji and then back from Japan to England after we went out.
“It cost me £2,000 going out and £1,200 back and although I’ve had some of that repaid, I’m still well out of pocket. There needs to be far better organisation and governance.”
In a parting shot at World Rugby Matavesi said: “I’m not sure what Bill Beaumont said to Fiji in terms of, ‘If you vote for me, we can make this or that happen,’ but the people in charge of Fiji rugby are not qualified to run it how it should be.
“The president of the country seems to have his mates in high positions in our rugby system, so you have to ask where all World Rugby’s money goes? It doesn’t seem to be going towards very much where Fiji rugby is concerned.
“The saddest thing is we have brilliant players and the potential to be a top-tier nation, but the foundations are just not there.”