Kanaloa Pasifika have threatened New Zealand Rugby (NZR) with legal action should they not be included in next year’s revamped Super Rugby competition.
According to RNZ, the franchise has laid a formal complaint with NZR after it was revealed Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua were NZR’s preferred partners to join a 12-team Super Rugby competition with 10 teams from New Zealand and Australia in 2022.
The Moana Pasifika franchise is backed by notable New Zealand Rugby figures, including ex-All Blacks Sir Bryan Williams and Sir Michael Jones, as well as New Zealand Rugby Players Association (NZRPA) boss Rob Nichol.
However, Kanaloa Pasifika chief executive Tracy Atiga claims NZR breached its own bidding process on the basis that Moana Pasifika was enlisted as a preferred partner even though the franchise did not participate in the process.
“Moana Pasifika was invited to participate in the process but declined,” Atiga reportedly penned in a letter to the New Zealand Rugby Board of Directors, according to RNZ.
“NZRPA, Moana Pasifika and NZ Rugby all confirm that no bid was submitted. Kanaloa Pasifika submitted a full application and met all conditions as required in accordance with the different phases of the process.”
Furthermore, Kanaloa – backed by a raft of former All Blacks such as Jerome Kaino and Joe Rokocoko – claimed that NZR was compromised by having at least two employees involved with the Moana Pasifika bid.
The letter also reportedly criticised NZR for seeking endorsement from the NZRPA when it was heavily involved with the Moana Pasifika bid.
“NZRPA are compromised as they represent the best interests of NZ Rugby contracted players not PI Nations players. Therefore, any process involving NZRPA in respect to Pasifika is a direct conflict of interest.”
Atiga also felt aggrieved that NZR’s decision to decline Kanaloa’s bid stemmed from the belief that the franchise did not have the financial support to join Super Rugby.
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“Nigel [Cass] and Brent [Impey] were already aware that we had various parties willing to invest in Kanaloa, but we would not be able to provide a letter of commitment until the terms of the licence were put in writing,” she wrote.
“We urged NZ Rugby to put the terms of licence in writing and/or provide a letter of intent to appease our investor groups but to no avail.”
Subsequently, RNZ reports that Atiga has said that legal action will be required should NZR fail to reverse its decision and grant them a license to compete in the new-look Super Rugby.
Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW), led by chief executive and former Samoan international Daniel Leo, has also expressed concern over Kanaloa Pasifika’s exclusion from Super Rugby.
“The recent announcement of Moana Pasifika as New Zealand Rugby’s primary partner candidate has raised a number of concerns that cast doubt over the fairness of NZR’s selection process amidst a number of perceived conflicts of interest,” a PRPW press release, published on Thursday, read.
“While PRPW have been in consultation with a number of groups throughout the bidding process, we felt it was important we refrained from being solely involved or publicly supporting any one of the ‘Pasifika’ bids in order not to bias the selection process or give any one party a perceived upper hand when it came to the selection criteria and process.
“We are therefore disappointed it has been brought to our attention that a number of parties including NZR board members and the NZRPA may not have taken those same precautions, involving themselves heavily in both the formation of the Moana Pasifika group and the subsequent selection of Moana Pasifika as the preferred partner of NZR rugby – presenting what we feel is a clear conflict of interest.”
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