Dismissed and Disregarded: The Battle of Fijiana Players for Fair Treatment

The Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) has faced scrutiny and criticism from Fijiana rugby players regarding the payment of their dues. Initially, the FRU responded by assuring the public and the players that all payments were fulfilled as per the established rate structure. However, subsequent investigations have revealed discrepancies, and the FRU, represented by Interim Chairman of Trustees, Peter Mazey, has acknowledged these shortcomings. In this article, we delve into the FRU’s revised response and why the concerns were raised by the Fijiana players.

The FRU, in its initial statement, emphasized that all dues owed to Fijiana Drua and Fijiana 15s players had been settled. They attributed the social media upheaval to a misunderstanding regarding the daily allowance rate for players. The rate structure, established by the previous administration, outlined different payment amounts for various tournaments. While the FRU expressed their commitment to player welfare and partnerships with sponsors, the statement did not fully address the concerns raised by the Fijiana players.

Following the players’ claims and the subsequent public outcry, the FRU initiated an audit of the payments made to the Fijiana 15s and Drua teams. Peter Mazey, the Interim Chairman of Trustees, expressed shock upon learning of the players’ claims via social media. The FRU requested evidence from the Finance Manager to verify payments, including the Rooster Chicken Bonus payment of $82,000 to the Fijiana Drua team.

During the investigation, it was discovered that the Fijiana players were indeed promised a daily payment of $300 for the Oceania event, contrary to the previously stated rate of $100. This discrepancy acknowledged the players’ claims and highlighted their justified frustration. Peter Mazey personally contacted Fijiana captain Sereima Leweniqila, who reiterated the players’ concerns. Furthermore, it was revealed that the women who represented Fiji in the Women’s 15s World Cup were also underpaid, necessitating a payment of $600 per player.

In light of the revelations, the FRU has accepted responsibility for the underpayments and expressed sincere apologies to the Fijiana players. Peter Mazey announced that a Trustee Meeting would be convened to review the situation and rectify the payment issues promptly. The FRU aims to meet with women’s rugby representatives to address their concerns and seek their guidance in restructuring and professionalizing Fiji Rugby moving forward.

This issue points to the urgent need for improved accountability and fairness within the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU). It is deeply concerning that the players felt compelled to resort to social media and media outlets to ensure they receive their rightful payments. This situation underscores the importance of implementing robust accounting processes and conducting thorough reviews within the FRU to ensure equitable treatment of all players.

It is crucial to acknowledge that the players’ concerns were initially disregarded until they resorted to public outcry. This raises significant questions about gender biases and inequality within the system. It is unacceptable that if a male rugby player had raised similar issues, the situation would likely have been taken seriously and promptly resolved. It is imperative to eliminate such disparities and treat all players with equal respect and consideration.

The Fijiana players should be commended for their bravery and perseverance in standing up for their rights. Their actions have brought attention to the need for systemic change within the FRU. It is incumbent upon the union to promptly rectify the payment discrepancies and create a safe and supportive environment where players feel empowered to voice their concerns. 

But that’s not all…

In addition to the concerns raised by the Fijiana players, there is a pressing need to address the larger issue surrounding the governance of the FRU. It is crucial for the FRU to urgently rectify the organizational structure.

Furthermore, a 2022 report highlighted that major programs such as the Fijiana Drua, Fijiana XVs for the Rugby World Cup 2021, and the Flying Fijians remained without sponsors. This lack of sponsorship further compounds the challenges faced by the players and calls for immediate action to secure adequate financial support for these programs.

Moreover, recent developments have seen the Fiji Rugby Union suspended from the World Rugby Council, adding to the urgency for the FRU to address governance issues and restore its standing within the international rugby community.

It is crucial for the FRU to undertake comprehensive reforms, including transparency, accountability, and securing sponsorships, to ensure the sustainable development and success of Fifi rugby. Resolving these issues will not only benefit the players but also contribute to the overall growth and reputation of Fiji rugby on the global stage.

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