The coach that guided Fiji’s rugby sevens team to Olympic gold at Rio 2016 has said the squad should split from the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) in order to ensure they are properly managed.
Ben Ryan, who stepped down from his role after Rio 2016, was criticised by the FRU earlier this month after he took to Twitter to question the supposed lack of contracts given to the Fiji players involved in the opening two rounds of the World Rugby Sevens Series.
The 45-year-old has now told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation the sevens squad should be established as a separate commercial franchise, so they could reap the benefits of the opportunity presented by their gold-medal winning performance in Rio de Janeiro in August.
“I think it would be an incredibly popular decision from the people of Fiji if the sevens team was moved away from the FRU,” said Ryan.
“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.”
Ryan also questioned the FRU’s handling of the team, which has won the World Rugby Sevens Series for the past two seasons.
“What does alarm me is we have one of the most marketable, iconic sports teams – they won back-to-back World Series titles, [they are] Olympic gold medallists,” he added.
“If we can’t market them properly and get their value and what they’re worth so the boys and the programme can get the money and resources that they need, then I think it’s time for us to look at the whole system.”
The FRU responded to Ryan’s comments on Twitter by expressing its “disappointment” at his “constant remarks” and “ongoing tweets about the performance of the team”.
Ryan then took to Twitter again, describing the FRU’s statement as “ridiculously childish”.
The FRU also denied Ryan’s claims that the national governing body has lost its sponsorship and funding.
Fiji crushed Great Britain 43-7 in the Rio 2016 final at the Deodoro Stadium, ensuring the country’s first-ever Olympic medal in any sport.
They lost to England in the quarter-finals of the Cape Town Sevens earlier this month, a week after losing to South Africa in the final of the Dubai Sevens.
Since leaving his post as Fiji coach, Ryan has been performing ambassadorial and advisory roles.
By Daniel Etchells
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.