Super Rugby chiefs are struggling to find a viable new format but one thing is clear they do not want Fiji, Tonga and Samoa to enter a Pacific Islands franchise which leaves their players open to further raids from big spending clubs in Europe and Japan.
The concept of a Pacific Islands team has been gathering support around the world as one way to try and limit the player drain but now SANZAAR, which controls the Super Rugby competition, has thrown out a bid to establish a team from the three islands
Fiji RU CEO John O’Connor released a statement admitting they had entered a bid with SANZAAR, which is currently reviewing the competition structure ahead of the end of the broadcast deal in 2020, but it had failed. “The Fiji Rugby Union has today confirmed that it had on behalf of itself, the Tonga and Samoa Rugby Unions submitted a bid for a Pacific Island Super Rugby franchise to be based in Fiji to SANZAAR on the 30th of June 2018 in compliance with the bid timelines,” he said .
“The CEO of FRU confirmed that SANZAAR had acknowledged the bid and was impressed with the quality and professionalism of the bid considering the short time duration provided to put the bid together. After several rounds of meetings and discussions with SANZAAR and submissions of other required documentations, SANZAAR on the 28th of August 2018 had informed FRU that the bid was unsuccessful.
“SANZAAR determined that requirements around defined key performance criteria including an ability to deliver a commercial uplift in both broadcasting and guaranteed underwrite would render the viability of a Pacific Super Team under the proposed SANZAAR commercial model unsustainable.”
Fiji had been searching for overseas financial support and had spoken to Richard Fale who was proposing a franchise based in Hawaii and backed by American based money but had not been involved in plans to gain the support of actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
O’Connor added:“FRU is committed to seeking pathways for our players but will not render our support to any bid which does not support giving opportunities for players who are eligible to represent the three Pacific Islands.”
The FRU did not reveal the details of the financial bid but it was estimated it needed a minimum annual investment of US$12 million.“The decision was made within the Pacific that financially it didn’t stack up,” Pacific Islands Players’ association chief Aayden Clarke told Radio New Zealand.“The losers in that, if they were to put all their eggs in that basket of having a [Super Rugby] franchise team, would probably be community rugby and club rugby.”
The Super Rugby competition currently has 15 teams playing in five nations having dropped from 18 franchises and under the current review there appears to be serious concerns that the Japan based Sunwolves could be dumped when changes come into place in 2021.
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