Tonga Rugby bank blaming response after players ‘no pay’ complaints fuel public anger

A statement purported to have come from the Tonga Rugby Union (TRU) in response to complaints about players chasing their pay from authorities has been criticised as adding fuel to the fire.

‘Ikale Tahi number eight Vaea Fifita went public on social media since yesterday and revealed he and others have yet to receive their payments for the World Cup tour. In response, winger Solomone Kata agreed and gave Fifita his full support on social media.

Press release

The Ikale Tahi team was eliminated from the tournament after facing consecutive defeats from Ireland, South Africa, and Scotland – three of the top five nations in the rugby world.

However, they finished their Rugby World Cup 2023 campaign on a high with an entertaining 45-24 Pool B victory over Romania in front of 45,000 fans at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille.

The TRU has released a statement today on what appeared to be its official Facebook account saying it apologised for any inconvenience caused by its handling of the players’ payments.

It claimed all players had been paid while a few had been experiencing issues.

“We have been working closely with our bank to determine the cause of the issue and get payment to where they need to be”, the release said.

“This has taken much longer to resolve than anyone would have liked and we sincerely regret any inconvenience that this may have caused to players and their families”.

The tone of the TRU statement did not sit well with many on social media.

The press release did not include a signature to identify who sent it. And this has been criticised as unprofessional and treating this serious issue as unimportant.

It also failed to clarify claims by Halaleva Fifita that TRU gave him “different versions of unreliable information” about his payment issues.

Commenters on TRU’s Facebook post’s comment section accused the release as out of touch with reality.

“That last paragraph shows the lack of empathy and lack of education of these officials”, a commenter wrote.

“ You would never hear the NZRU or RFU say that to their supporters. What a weird and arrogant flex. They basically blamed the bank and then blamed the fans”, one commenter wrote.

“… there is nothing “political” about players asking for what they deserve and to get it when they are supposed to get it. It is your ethical duty as the union to ensure this doesn’t happen. Just once, I’d love to see an Ikale Tahi campaign take place where there is no word of players not getting their proper dues. Don’t apologise for the “confusion”, apologise for not doing your jobs that you obviously get paid for…. On time I presume. You’ve confirmed yourselves there are players who were not paid. Do better! Kaume’a fakahela tama ko moutolu!!

Some commenters made fun of the bank issue claims being mentioned in the release and said this was and old excuse.

“Same story different year”, another wrote.

“Come on, especially this year big players choose to play for our little nation and this is how they get treated    we are treating our on ppl like this it’s a disgrace.

‘Same story, you feel for the players. TRU will never change their rubbish ways.

“It’s so sad. Not only is it a distraction to their performance, these guys still have bills to pay at home, and likely would have been paid more in wages, if they stayed home. Sad how we only hear this kind of news from our PI Nations. Hope the remaining few get their allowance asap

“We need to do better TRU!! We have a lot of young stars that want to play rugby in the future & if this is going to be an ongoing problem then everything will be chaos in the next coming years or so. Do not be frauds. Our Tongan people are known to be big in this & it’s already an embarrassment to the world! Do better!! We are in 2023, times of disorganisation and poor governance should be over!!! Do better Tonga! Very appalling from a professional perspective.

‘2023 and we still run it like we in 1923.I seen local badminton clubs run better and no one plays that sport.Can IRB just pay the players direct seems like the so called bank/board always get there pay on time  

“The Union does not engage on social media debate”, then why posting this letter up on your FB page?   . “Ko e lahi ange e fute ‘a e kosi ‘a ‘Isope, ko e lahi ange ia ‘ene ‘efihia” – Aesop’s Fables.

“Why isn’t there a person signing off on this letter ? Tuku e toitoi bro you guys are accountable to the people and the people deserve an explanation. Just looks like everyone’s ducking this letter   take responsibility let me tell you something. You have a track record of mishandling funds & not paying players.

“So while you have provided this, if you were transparent enough, we wouldn’t be discussing this non payment issue.

‘The last paragraph.   you’re so out of touch. If it were not for the social media outcry, demanding answers – you wouldn’t have released this letter and you surely wouldn’t have been held accountable- like you have been getting away with it the last couple of years!”

However, some people stood by TRU and accused the Fifitas of lack of patience.

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