Samoan Rugby Union declared bankrupt as Test matches with Scotland and England are plunged into doubt

Daniel Schofield
Samoa's Test matches with Scotland and England are in jeopardy after Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao, the prime minister and chairman of the Samoan Rugby Union, declared the governing body bankrupt - Heathcliff O'Malley

The Samoan Rugby Union (SRU) has been declared bankrupt by its chairman ahead of the country’s November internationals against Scotland and England.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegao, who is both the prime minister and chairman of the SRU, is reported as saying that the union cannot afford to pay the players’ insurance, which could prevent their match against Scotland at Murrayfield from going ahead. With debts of around £1 million, Malielegao has launched a fundraising radio phone-in on the island and has also called on the Rugby Football Union to offer some of its gate receipts for the teams’ fixture on Nov 25. 

“We are bankrupt,” the Prime Minister told the Samoa Observer. “In other words we are insolvent. It means the Union cannot continue to pay off our debts with the banks. We also need money to pay the players so they can continue to play.”

Unfortunately this is just the latest in a long line of episodes of financial mismanagement by the Samoan Rugby Union. In 2014, Samoa’s players threatened to boycott their match against England over the administration of the union. 

During the last Rugby World Cup cycle, World Rugby invested £17m into Pacific Island rugby through direct and indirect funding, although there remain concerns about the quality of the governance and the misappropriation of funds. Malielegao has accused World Rugby with interfering in its choice of head coach. 

Malielegao has also put pressure on the RFU to step into the breach. “For example, one game in England, I’m not sure how much millions is received at the gates for entrance fees, and let’s say they make $30m; we get half of that which is $15m that money will help with our annual budget for next three years,” Malielegao told the Samoa Observer

The RFU makes about £10m from hosting a Test match at Twickenham and last year offered Fiji £75,000 as a goodwill gesture. Samoa’s players meanwhile will earn £650 for the match versus the £22,000 their England counterparts will receive. England players of Pacific Island descent such as Mako Vunipola have urged their team-mates to donate some of their match fee to Samoa’s players, which will put more pressure on the RFU to reciprocate.

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