'Ikale Tahi: The light at the end of the tunnel

by Emeline Tuita, Chief Executive Officer, Tonga Rugby Union

THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL: I am going to personally apologize to the global Tongan rugby community that on my watch as the CEO of the TRU, this governance crisis at the Board level has occurred. For the most part it has been about my appointment as the CEO since the 16th of January, 2013. What started off as my acceptance of a terms of reference for a CEO appropriate for this season of evolution of the Tonga Rugby Brand, has ended in a rather ugly stalemate which commenced with an apparent dissatisfaction with the President for supporting a CEO who had not played rugby or played on the national team, of good education, had managed a business and belonged to a rugby club. Unfortunate requirements for a woman in a country where the rugby development program for women is just evolving.

The Governance Crisis, created by five Tongatapu Sub-Union members, the 'Eua Sub-Unon representative to the Board, led by the Vice-President, has as the weekend draws to a close, appears to have been a senseless exercise in unadulterated abuse of power and authority and conflicts of interest. This has translated during the past ten weeks, to on-going attempts to oust the President, and there have been four or five termination letters to the CEO supported by attempts to humiliate publicly in the local media. There has been no regard to the risks to the sport of rugby in terms of integrity, credibility or financing, nor the potential liabilities to the Tonga Rugby Union for unlawful conduct, but outrageously, no regard whatsoever for the players who voluntarily participate to bring the Kingdom of Tonga to the global stage. During this period, the 'Ikale Tahi Sevens Team has gone to London and are now on their way to the 2013 Sevens Rugby World Cup. The Under 20s participated in the JWRT in Chile. And the 'Ikaletahi journey we have all followed and we are all disappointed in the current outcome at the governance level and acknowledge the high performance level of our team.

Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Definitely and it is not about putting more money in or contributing points of view or venting, it is about a simple action of standing up and saying to the Tonga Rugby Union, this is not good enough, we must put a stop to this now. A simple requirement to the Tonga Rugby Union is to: PUT THE PLAYERS FIRST and CONSISTENTLY PROMOTE THE INTERESTS OF THE NATION IN THE SPORT OF RUGBY ACROSS ALL LEVELS.

For the more cynical of us, let me assure you that this is not about maintaining my role as the Chief Executive Officer of the Tonga Rugby Union. I have legal avenues that can resolve any issues that have arisen from the last 6 months and I am pursuing that separately and off-line.

This is about standing up on matters of principle, to right grievous wrongs of the past with the governance of one of the nations most valuable asset – our present and future rugby players. The strategy is carefully crafted so that it does not impact ongoing operations of the Tonga Rugby Union, and maintain dialogue with our key stakeholders including the Government and potential sponsors. I should like to take position as the lead plaintiff and need names and addresses, contact numbers of any supporters of Tonga Rugby and the 'Ikale Tahi to be named in a class action suit that will compel the Tonga Rugby Union governance powers, whether it be the Union in Meeting or the Board of Directors to follow the Constitution of the Tonga Rugby Union to the letter and uphold the rule of law in the Kingdom. We cannot hope to succeed in the national sport of Tonga as long as we allow the will of a few to arbitrarily impact the chances and opportunities that God has given to Tonga in the form of rugby talent for a title or for a season. The socio-economic value of our players far exceeds this and as long as we take national pride in the sport of rugby and the performance of our boys, then let's put in one supporter at a time.

An email has been opened for you to take a few minutes and register your interest in the longevity of Tongan Rugby but more importantly ensure that our national players are provided every ounce of support possible. As part of the Global Tongan Rugby Community, If you want to support that "The Tonga Rugby Union to follow the Constitution and uphold the Rule of Law and for the Courts to assist" then please email your support to:

[email protected]

Please provide Name, address, mobile or contact telephone and a short line in Tongan or English stating that you wish to support a submission of the Chief Executive Officer to the Courts for The Tonga Rugby Union to follow the Constitution and uphold the Rule of Law and for the Courts to assist.

Please cut and paste this on your pages so that come the game tomorrow, we have as many supporters as we can for the submission on Monday. Please do not submit your details if you do not want to have your name on public record.

Does this help the 'Ikale Tahi get funding quicker? Absolutely. And it sets the stage for a properly governed TRU which is subjected to the principles of good governance, transparency and accountability and operates to international standards. The national pride should rest not only in the players but also the manner in which we govern rugby because both are on the global stage.

Emeline Tuita, Chief Executive Officer, Tonga Rugby Union

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