Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

Olympic and 2015 Dubai Sevens champions Fiji should split from FRU, urges Ben Ryan

Former Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan on Tuesday said the team he led to Olympic glory should split from the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) to ensure they are properly managed.
Fiji, white, in action against South Africa during the Dubai Rugby Sevens final on December 2, 2016. South Africa won the game 26-14 as Fiji surrendered the title they won in 2015. Victor Besa for The National
Fiji, white, in action against South Africa during the Dubai Rugby Sevens final on December 2, 2016. South Africa won the game 26-14 as Fiji surrendered the title they won in 2015. Victor Besa for The National

Former Fiji sevens coach Ben Ryan on Tuesday said the team he led to Olympic glory should split from the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) to ensure they are properly managed.

Under the three-year guidance of Ryan, Fiji enjoyed the most successful spell in their history, winning a record nine tournaments on their way to consecutive World Sevens Series titles in 2015 and 2016.

Ryan’s illustrious time in charge ended in style, with the Englishman steering Fiji to the Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro, the Pacific nation’s first ever Olympic medal.

However, despite their on-field success, the Fiji set-up has been hindered by pay disputes, with players currently off-contract and only being paid a modest per diem allowance for their services.

Ryan, who left his post after Fiji won the inaugural sevens Olympic gold, questioned the FRU’s handling of the team.

“What does alarm me is we have one of the most marketable, iconic sports teams — they won back-to-back World Series titles, (they are) Olympic gold medallists,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

“If we can’t market them properly and get their value and what they are worth so the boys and the programme can get the money and resources that they need, then I think it’s time for us to look at the whole system.”

He suggested Fiji sevens should become a commercial entity separate from the FRU.

“It would be run commercially, transparently and for the first time you would get proper funding coming in without any worries around governance, having to pay off debt from various other things,” he said.

“If the government actually pushed this, if they decided we would be better off having an independent commercial franchise, backed by World Rugby and the government and the FRU, it would be a hugely popular decision.”

It is not the first time Ryan has criticised the FRU for not paying its players adequately, prompting the organisation to hit back in a statement earlier this month.

“It seems it is difficult for him to move on,” the FRU said, expressing disappointment at his “constant remarks” about the team.

Sevens is Fiji’s national sport and the team were given a rapturous reception after winning the Pacific nation’s first ever Olympic medal in Rio.

Fiji, who won their first Dubai Sevens title in 2015, lost in this year’s final to South Africa, before being eliminated by England at the quarter-final stage in the Cape Town leg of the series earlier this month.

* Agencies

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Updated: December 20, 2016 04:00 AM

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