Fiji rugby sevens coach Ben Ryan calls for squad to be set up as stand-alone franchise

Fiji rugby sevens coach Ben Ryan calls for squad to be set up as stand-alone franchise

Fiji rugby sevens coach Ben Ryan calls for squad to be set up as stand-alone franchise

Updated 21 December 2016, 12:10 AEDT

The coach who masterminded Olympic gold medal success for Fiji's rugby sevens squad is proposing a radical plan to take the team out Fiji Rugby Union's control.

The coach who masterminded Olympic gold medal success for Fiji's rugby sevens squad is proposing a radical plan to take the team out of Fiji Rugby Union's (FRU) control.

Former coach Ben Ryan was criticised by the FRU after he took to Twitter to ask why the current players have no contracts and are not being paid anything other than basic allowances.

The FRU suggested Ryan "needs to let go", a response he characterised as childish.

Ryan told Pacific Beat the sevens squad should be set up as separate commercial franchise, so they could take full advantage of the window of opportunity created by their success gold medal in Rio.

At the moment, Ryan said the players were not getting anything like the rewards they deserve, even though they were the most marketable team in rugby.

After a victorious home-coming with his team, Ryan's contract ended and he left Fiji soon after but he saw team members at the latest Sevens World Series in Dubai.

"From what I could see from that is the boys haven't been getting paid — they've only been getting a very small 'camp' allowance," Ryan said.

"When you look at the World Series teams that made the opening two rounds, probably only Samoa and Uganda are being paid less at the moment."

When he first arrived in Fiji to coach, Ryan worked for several months without pay until, apparently, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama intervened. He said the parlous pay for the current sevens squad was not a shock.

"But what does alarm me is we have one of the most marketable, iconic sports teams — they won back to back World Series titles, [they're] Olympic gold medallists.

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

Ryan said despite their world class success, the team has lost sponsors — a claim the FRU denies — so it was time for the FRU to relinquish control and for the team to be commercialised.

"[This] could end up being a very good model, for not just us but for various sporting teams around the world," he said.

Ryan said he did not think Fijians would have a problem requiring the FRU to give up control.

"I think it would be an incredibly popular decision from the people of Fiji if the sevens team was moved away from the FRU," he said.

"Of course [the FRU] would have someone on the board of the new commercial franchise.

"But 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.

"If the government actually pushed this, if they decided we'd 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."