The NGO Coalition on Human Rights is today calling for accountable and transparent public inquiry into the issue of equity in gender and sports in Fiji, and more broadly into overall conditions for women in sports at all levels – from girls and youth-led community clubs and through to country representation.
This follows confirmation that the Fijiana 15s and Fijiana Drua have not been fully paid by the Fiji Rugby Football Union Trust Board.
Following questions raised by fijivillage News, Interim Chair of the board, Peter Mazey also confirmed that a meeting of the board is expected this week to resolve the issue.
Some of the players including Fijiana 15s captain, Sereima Leweniqila, Fijiana Drua captain, Bitila Tawake and player, Asinate Serevi have raised concerns about how the Fijiana teams have been treated.
The NGO Coalition on Human Rights says it is high time that an inquiry is conducted after media and social media reports of the poor treatment of our national women rugby players.
The NGO Coalition has thanked the trustees of the Fiji Rugby Union for stepping in to confirm statements made by the players and acknowledge the urgent need for FRU to improve.
The coalition says this patriarchal attitude, inequitable and unaccountable leadership of sports organisations, and poor structures do not reflect gender equity and human rights in sports.
It says while there are changes due to hard work of many stakeholders including players themselves, it is time to be clear on the remaining gaps and obstacles for women and girls in sports, as in other areas of life, and to have a clear plan of action for change.
The NGO Coalition also calls for support from the government and the Fijian society for women in sports, especially those in the rugby field and other male dominated sports.
It says they want to hold the government accountable to its commitment through the Fiji National Action Plan to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls and the work on eliminating violence against women and girls.
The NGO Coalition adds the Fiji society and government need to acknowledge and build on the dedication, hard work, skills and achievements of the women's national sports teams nationally and globally, and treat them with fairness and respect.
The Interim Chairman of Trustees for the Fiji Rugby Football Union Trust Board, Peter Mazey has today apologized to the women who represented Fiji so proudly in our Fijiana 15’s and Fijiana Drua teams, and he will call his fellow trustees to a meeting early next week to enable them to review everything and correct the situation about the outstanding pay for the players.
Mazey says the trustees were as shocked as everyone to learn from social media of the claims being made by the Fijiana 15’s Captain and players.
When questioned by fijivillage News, Mazey says they immediately asked for the Finance Manager to show proof that all payments due to the Fijiana 15’s for allowances while they were overseas was made and paid into each girls account.
He says they further requested evidence of the Rooster Chicken bonus payment of $82,000 having been paid to the 41 players, officials and managers who were part of Fijiana Drua winning team.
Mazey also says the special bonus payment of $8,000 per player in the Fijiana Drua Team, as announced last week by the Prime Minister and Minister of Youth and Sports, has not yet been received and a presentation to the team will be made when the Minister of Sports returns from overseas.
He says they believed at that time that these were the issues and an audit that all payments had been made, was conducted by Mazey, Cathy Wong from Oceania Womens Rugby and the Interim Administrator.
Mazey says the press release of Thursday was confirmation from Fiji Rugby that the bonus payment and allowances as advised by Finance had all been given to each woman.
He says the Finance policy for Fiji Rugby Teams, has always been, that when either our mens or womens teams are competing at the highest level, being the World Cup or the Olympic Games, then the allowance paid overseas is $300 per day.
For all other overseas competitions including tests and Oceania events, an allowance of $100 is paid.
Mazey says this is where the confusion lay and why the previous press statement claimed they had been fully paid.
In the meantime, he personally contacted the Captain, Sereima Leweniqila who is still overseas, to address the issues she had raised, and learned that the major concern of the women was that for this Oceania event they had been promised a payment of $300 per day and not the $100 per day they had received.
Mazey says today further investigations and evidence received, has shown that the women were promised $300 per day, as claimed, despite the Rugby Allowance policy.
He says during his further discussions with Sereima he also learned that the women who represented us at the Womens 15’s World Cup last year were also underpaid and that they had not received any response from Rugby House to their queries.
Today on investigating, Mazey can confirm to all those women in that team, that again, yes they were underpaid and are due a payment of $600.00 per player.
This will also be finalized in the trustee meeting.
He thanks all of those great women rugby players who had the strength and honesty to come out and bring their rights to the trustees attention, and he is only sorry that they were forced to use the social media platform to achieve what is their right due to promises made.
The trustees wish to meet the Womens Rugby representatives as soon as possible to address all other issues they have raised and to obtain their help in guiding them in the restructuring and the organization of Fiji Rugby as a professional body moving forward.
Fijiana 15s player, Asinate Serevi has spoken out after recent statements on the Fijiana 15s and Fijiana Drua, and said that every single player that’s played and have played under Fiji Rugby has been either misguided or mistreated.
Serevi says the real issue is that no one is ever honest with the players.
She says on her facebook post that they are still owed $600 from the World Cup so not all payments have been paid out to the World Cup players.
Serevi says for the Wallaroos test match and Oceania - they were told before they left for the test match that while they are home training at camp that they would be getting paid $100 a day until the day they leave for Oceania then the pay would increase to $300 a day until they flew back.
She says throughout the tour they were continuously told that the $300 was approved and still being processed.
Serevi stresses they are not liars and that was clearly told to the players, and that’s why the players are upset.
She says they as a team have constantly asked about the payments since the day they left for Australia, followed protocols and the channels.
Serevi says Skipper Leweniqila emailed FRU and still did not get a response regarding payment and questions regarding the tour.
She says their last resort was - social media hoping for a reply, which they somewhat got with the statement FRU has issued.
Serevi says for those saying the Fijiana don’t deserve to be paid as much as the men - they do.
She says even with the $3.1 million sponsorship from Vodafone for the Fijiana, they don’t have the $3,800 paid to the players as promised.
She says the team and management have sacrificed a lot to be away from their family and friends to carry the national banner on the world stage of rugby.
Serevi says the team faced challenges, for example, during Oceania, their management/male coaches were not with them as they were floating around like nomads waiting to be booked to their next accommodation each day.
She claims the Fiji Rugby Union failed to make the necessary arrangements to accommodate the management despite sending them on a national duty.
Serevi says all in all - pay the rest of the money promised to the players and the FRU can deal with the rest after.
She says she is praying that none of this affects selections for future tours, and this is them standing their ground for the future of women’s sport.
We have sent further questions to the Fiji Rugby Football Union Trust Board and are awaiting their response.
The Fiji Rugby Football Union Trust Board has assured the public and the Fijiana players, that all due payments have been fulfilled.
This follows a facebook post by the Vodafone Fijiana 15s captain, Sereima Leweniqila saying “Do we have to win everytime to be treated right? Could we get paid the amount due to us? What does it take for our voices to be heard? Do we always have to fight to get what we deserve? Pay Us What is Due to Us.”
This morning, the FRFUTB members, Administrator, Simione Valenitabua and Finance met with team manager Vela Naucukidi and reviewed the payment processes, requisitions and vouchers.
The rugby body says it was confirmed to her satisfaction, stating that all dues owed to Fijiana Drua and Fijiana 15s players have been settled.
Naucukidi also shed light on the source of recent social media upheaval, which appears to stem from a misunderstanding about the daily allowance rate for players.
The rate structure, established by the previous administration is :
● Fijiana players receive $300/day during the World Cup and $100/day for the Oceania tournament and the Australia Wallaroos test.
● The Fijian Warriors Men's team receive a daily allowance of $50/day local and $100 while on tour, a rate in effect during their recent victorious run at the World Rugby Pacific Challenge Cup. The FRFUTB had earlier said the Warriors get $27 a day, and this has been amended to the above.
Valenitabua says they are deeply committed to player welfare and exploring partnerships with sponsors to ensure this commitment is upheld.
He says an example of this is the partnership with Rooster Chicken, whose generous bonus sponsorship of $82,000 was fully paid and distributed to the Fijiana Drua team in May 2023.
They also express their gratitude towards the Fiji Government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports for their approved bonus for the Fijiana Drua players, which they are eagerly awaiting.
They appreciate the ongoing sponsorship agreement with Vodafone, who have pledged significant funds for the 2023 season, a gross sum of $1.6 million including in-kind, $497,976 net per year, and $247,086 budgeted for programs until May 2024.
The rugby body also acknowledges the concerns raised by the Fijiana captain and appreciates her leadership and passion for the team.
They encourage all players to continue sharing their concerns and suggestions through the proper channels with the Team Manager.
The Fiji Rugby Football Union Trust Board says they are steadfast in their commitment to finding sustainable solutions that will further enhance women's rugby in Fiji.
The FRFU Trustees and management are currently awaiting reports from the tour coach and management to address any potential issues not yet discussed publicly by the Fijiana Captain or the players.
We are trying to speak to Leweniqila after the FRFUTB’s statement.
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