Fiji Rugby Union funding freeze lifted after cutbacks | Pacific Beat

Fiji Rugby Union funding freeze lifted after cutbacks

Fiji Rugby Union funding freeze lifted after cutbacks

Updated 23 May 2014, 11:51 AEST

The Fiji Rugby Union is expecting to sign up new sponsors, now that the International Rugby Board has lifted its funding freeze.

The FRU's acting chief executive, Dr Berlin Kafoa, says the IRB is happy with the progress the union has made in balancing its books.

The funding freeze kicked in at a time when the FRU was about to appoint a permanent CEO, meaning Dr Kafoa has continued in his temporary and voluntary role for more than six months.

But during that time he says significant changes have been implemented.

Presenter: Catherine Graue

Speaker: Dr Berlin Kafoa, Fiji Rubgy Union's acting chief executive

KAFOA: I think we've just put in good financial and human resource processes. We've been living within our means and we're careful with our spending, but I think more importantly, we've managed to cut down on our expenses that we thought were not essential to the running of rugby.

GRAUE: What sort of things have you cut back on then?

KAFOA: Cutback down on extra kits being given, team kits being given out, extra trips that are made and being more cautious of planning and saying no, which trips are essential and let's make those and being cautious of our expenditure - things like running costs, operational costs in the fuel, budgeting, trips like that.

GRAUE: So with such actions that you've taken and obviously with a positive assessment from the IRB about how you are managing your finances now, do you anticipate that that might also open up other funding opportunities for the Fiji Rugby Union?

KAFOA: There is a possibility. All funders want to know that their money is going to an organisation that has good sound processes number one. And number two, all funders will then look at whether the Fiji team is winning and consistently winning and putting their money behind them.  So two things, good processes, sound processes and a winning performance will ensure other funders and other people, our sponsors are already coming on board.

GRAUE: That's right. You've already had a large sponsorship deal that you secured back in February, worth, I understand, 40 million Fiji dollars over the next six years. Can you tell us about that and what other ones are starting to come on board?

KAFOA: Yes, we've managed to get 40 million over 5 years. There's a clause there that within three years if we do perform, then the amount will go upwards, if we perform in next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics Sevens. So having said that, in the professional area we have to be prudent of how we expend that and be careful of our expenditure so that we remain in a positive balance with our finances.

The other sponsors have been Fiji Water, is looking at helping us out with our Sevens circuit. Our sponsorship team is also speaking to Shangri-La Hotels who've approached us, and Samsung. So, we are optimistic, but we have to take one step at a time and don't get ahead of ourselves.

GRAUE: Now, you've been standing in as the Acting Chief Executive of the Fiji Rugby Union for some time. I understand that there were applications and possible interviews to be held earlier in the year when the IRB then suspended its funding and that was all put on hold. So where does this now leave you standing and will you be standing down?

KAFOA: I will definitely be standing down, I'm just holding the fort and our Chairman has targetted the end of May. We've just re-advertised the CEO position and that application closes I think, I believe next week on Friday. But fact number one, I will be standing down once and new CEO is appointed and like I said, our Chairman has targetted the end of May, when he announced it in January, so I hope we can get a new CEO by then.

GRAUE: Will you be also putting forward your name once you stand down for the position, have you enjoyed your time as you've stood in?

KAFOA: It's been challenging, I think I've done my time and I will continue to help until the new CEO is appointed. I definitely am not applying. But like I said, I'm happy that I've been on some use to the Fiji Rugby Union.

GRAUE: And who do you expect will be applying. There was a short list already compiled back in January. Do you expect the same people will be applying this time round?

KAFOA: I think some people and I think with the positive news and the sponsorship maybe new people might be applying. I hope, so again, I can't predict. But I hope a lot more new applications do come in.

GRAUE: And are there other positions you're also looking to fill. I understand a position of the Manager of Finance and Planning, obviously key to restoring the finances there, is also being advertised. Has that yet been filled?

KAFOA: There was a temporary Finance Manager who has brought us through and done our accounts well, but we are advertising now for a full-time finance person.

I think within two weeks time, that application will close and from there we'll try and identify a new one as soon as possible.

GRAUE: And just finally, so this is all some really great positive news. What do you think then it means for rugby in Fiji this year in 2014 and going into as you said, looking at the World Cup and the Olympics in the next few years?

KAFOA: I think if we be cautious in our financial expenditure, get good processes in place and I think we will start attracting good people and keeping good people, good coaches. I think the word will spread around and a lot of good people will want to come and work for Fiji Rugby and then just being consistent and transparent in everything we do.

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