Tonga Rugby Union broke
President and the executive chairman of TRU, Fe‘ao Vunipola admitted that the union’s mountain of debts amount to hundreds of thousands of Pa’anga that go back over several years.Fe’ao told the Matangi Tonga Online that the Tonga Rugby Union property and office at Hala Salote, Fasi-moe-afi had been in receivership since October last year, when they could not keep up the repayment of their TOP$300,000 (K400,000) debt to Carinat Sport Marketing, Hong Kong. Carinat was an agent that bought the uniforms for Tonga’s Under 20, Tonga A and the ‘Ikale Tahi teams in 2012. He said in October 2015, the Supreme Court had placed TRU assets under the receivership and ordered that the TRU pay Carinat Sport Marketing USD$1000 a month. The Carinat representative in Tonga is lawyer Ralph Stevenson. Fe‘ao said they have kept up the payments and had paid, probably, about USD$4000, but last month, February, they could not keep up with the monthly payments. They were looking forward for the 600,000 pounds annual contribution from World Rugby that was scheduled to arrive on March 15, but it did not materialise. World Rugby withheld their contribution because of the TRU’s mounting debts and the fact that the Supreme Court had put TRU assets under receivership. Fe’ao said the only option left was to seek government assistance, and fortunately government was willing to hear their problems. He said the Tonga Government had always been willing to prop up rugby, and during the last Rugby World Cup, contributed about $1 million to the Tonga Rugby Union. Fe’ao said he had informed Stevenson that he had consulted government and he was hopeful that they would help them. He believed the creditors were willing to give him more time to negotiate with government. Meanwhile, Fe’ao planned to call a special meeting of the TRU on April 1 to amend the TRU Constitution in preparation for the Annual General Meeting at the end of April or early May. The proposed amendment to the Constitution is for the Prime Minister, ‘Akilisi Pohiva to be the president of the TRU, and for the election of a chairman and a deputy chairman of the board. He said that World Rugby representatives will be in Tonga from April 5-7 to meet with representatives of the TRU and with government. He was hopeful that following these meetings, the World Rugby would release their annual financial contribution to the TRU. The current members of the board of the TRU are: President and executive chairman, his deputy Manu Mataele, with three representatives, one each from Vava’u, Ha’apai and ‘Eua, and a representative each from Eastern, Western and Tongatapu as a whole.