Controversial administrator Francis Kean is to step down from his position as Fiji Rugby Union chairman following a serious of damaging headlines around the world after his involvement in the recent World Rugby elections. Kean had supported Bill Beaumont’s re-election for the chairmanship but was stood down from the World Rugby council after it emerged he had been previously convicted of manslaughter.

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That was not enough to placate the dissatisfied Pacific Rugby Players Welfare group who described World Rugby’s governance as “glaringly deficient” in a stinging 59-page dossier published on Wednesday. 

World Rugby refuted the allegations contained in the damning report, but it later emerged Kean will now be succeeded as chairman of the Fijian board by Conway Beg. His appointment was proposed by Frank Bainimarama, the Fijian prime minister who is Kean’s brother-in-law. 

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Kean, the Fiji corrections commissioner commander, was convicted of manslaughter after killing a man in 2006 after an assault which happened at the wedding of one of Bainimarama’s daughters a month after Bainimarama seized power in a military coup. 

Kean since made his way up the corridors of power in the rugby world, but that rise now appears to have been halted at the FRU following a five-year spell as chairman, a position he is now being rotated out from. His reputation in rugby circles around the world might now be notorious, but Kean’s alleged positive influence on Fijian rugby was lauded by CEO John O’Connor in a statement on the Fijian union website.

 

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It read: “Commander Kean has served five years as board chairman and spearheaded the major transformation we all now witness in the strategic direction, operations, and management of Fiji rugby. Without the dynamic, visionary and frank leadership style of Commander Kean, Fiji rugby would still be stuck in the swamp of mediocrity we witnessed for years prior to joining the union in 2015.”

O’Connor added: “The changes we all witness today at Fiji rugby is a testament to Commander Kean’s passion, commitment and love for Fiji rugby.

“A first-ever strategic plan for Fiji rugby, a new constitution, World Rugby 7s bid, Super Rugby bid, a World Rugby council seat, alignment of all rugby in Fiji from primary to provincial, a provincial competition for women’s rugby, four consecutive years of unqualified annual financial reports, four consecutive years of surplus, an increased 300 per cent financial portfolio from $8million to $24m in five years and above all uniting the Fiji rugby council are just some of the hallmarks of Commander Kean’s tenure as chairman of the board.

“We are on the verge of joining the Six Nations rugby competition and have Super Rugby New Zealand and Australia knocking on our doors, great opportunities for Fiji rugby which we could only dream of in the past. This is a testament to his leadership ability over the last five years, operating smartly and tactfully when required plus using the leverage of being a council member for the benefit to Fiji rugby.”

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These claims regarding Kean’s positive work run contrary to the claims of the Dan Leo-led PRPW. “We believe this year’s World Rugby elections should be reviewed in full,” said Leo earlier on Wednesday. 

“Serious questions are still to be answered about how Francis Kean, a man convicted of manslaughter, could have been accepted onto the World Rugby council. France had supported Kean’s nomination to World Rugby’s executive committee, though his candidacy was later withdrawn.

“Fiji supported Bernard Laporte’s successful bid for World Rugby’s vice-chairmanship, with the French union boss and Beaumont’s joint ticket ousting the challenge of Agustin Pichot. We believe that the entire process merits comprehensive review.”

World Rugby later dismissed Leo’s allegations as unsubstantiated, stating: “World Rugby is completely satisfied that the 2020 chairperson election was undertaken in accordance with a robust process with Bill Beaumont elected in a fair and appropriate manner.”

 

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