Tonga Rugby looks to kick off new era

The Tonga Rugby Union is seeking a Chief Executive Officer, in a bid to kick-start a new future of stability for 2021 and beyond.

The full-time role comes after the TRU signed a tripartite agreement with World Rugby and the Tonga government in September, after the global governing body had threatened to pull all financial support.

The new joint management committee are taking charge until long-standing governance issues are resolved.

World Rugby High Performance General Manager Peter Horne. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Vinnie Wylie

The General Manager of High Performance at World Rugby, Peter Horne, said he’s confident TRU are on it’s way to a successful future.

“We have had a request for a tripartite agreement post 2015 when the Union was in a difficult financial situation and so we forged ahead whilst there were other legal impediments and changes in terms of issues with the Union [through that period],” he said.

“We worked hard off the field to work in partnership with TRU and the government, and I think at all levels depending on what the resources of the Union and what we can comply, we’ve got a reasonable outcome considering.”

“The challenge now is that whilst the Union has been within the court for Tonga in regards to it’s constitution and it’s AGM, for us to engage with them so there were some conditions associated [with] ongoing investment whilst the Union was going through some legal parameters within its own jurisdiction, that we asked for a tripartite agreement to be re-activated of which they’ve come to the party.”

Horne said the CEO position is vital to TRU’s governance and constitution, and is the first step to qualifying for the next World Cup.

“They are currently advertising a CEO role which is good, which will then obviously help for the next step in building out Tonga Rugby over the next four year cycle with a plan and associated staff and coach so that they can qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup or beyond and support the other high performance teams,” he said.

“Ideally you need a full-time CEO to lead a business, not only with governance, but the delivery of the organisation domestically and high performance wise. Whilst we are the joint management committee through the tripartite agreement, which brings the three parties together, the organisation still needs to operate as a Union and as a member Union of World Rugby.”

Tonga Rugby CEO, former international and proud dad, Fe’ao Vunipola Photo: Tonga Rugby Union

Fe’ao Vunipola had been interim chief executive of the Tonga Rugby Union for the past five years, but was accused of restricting access to the Union’s annual general meeting to ensure voting favoured his preferred candidate earlier this year.

Horne said World Rugby would sit on the recruitment panel to ensure an appropriate and qualified person in country was appointed the role.

“The way that we see working with Tonga is really the key stakeholders need to work in collaboration in a partnership, not one body can just work on it’s own considering the resources that required to operate a contemporary Union.”

“We sit on the recruitment panel, we’re involve with the short listing and then identifying a person that’s appropriately qualified within country.”

“As soon as we get the CEO on board, the group can meet and we can hopefully start planning out 2021 financially, strategically in partnership with the Union and get a successful Tonga underway.”

The Tonga Rugby Union agreed to a new governing arrangement to ensure it will continue to receive critical funding from World Rugby.

But Horne admits there’s still a process the Union need to go through in terms of investment, but appointing a new CEO was the first step.

“Once the CEO and appointment is completed, World Rugby would be in contact with the Union associated with the next steps in terms of investment for 2020 and then the process for 2021.”

“There’s quite a few steps that we’re slowly working through with the group, led by general manager of Oceania Rugby Bruce Cook, in terms of governance and the Union”

Horne said ideally, they’d like to give full responsibility back to the Union by the end of the four year cycle, but there would still be involvement and discussions between all parties.

“Ideally by the end of the cycle we would like to see and be able to give all the responsibility back to the Union but the reality of it is it does it elevate the existing relationships that are within Tonga Rugby at a higher level. We may not call it a joint management committee post 2023, but there is still involvement between those three parties to work together to ensure a sustainable platform is continued for tOnga rugby 2023 and beyond.”

The joint management committee hope a CEO will be appointed by the new year, followed by a new head coach.


Source: RNZ

Photo 1: World Rugby High Performance General Manager Peter Horne. Photo: RNZ Pacific/Vinnie Wylie

Photo 2: Tonga Rugby CEO, former international and proud dad, Fe’ao Vunipola Photo: Tonga Rugby Union