Pacific Rugby Players Welfare chief Daniel Leo said he was not using rugby’s place in the Olympics as a political tool after USA Sevens coach Mike Friday described his attempt to improve World Rugby governance as a “pretty juvenile strong-arm tactic”.
Former Samoa player Leo wants World Rugby to launch a probe into how Fiji Rugby Union chief Francis Kean was allowed to stand as a candidate for the governing body’s executive committee, despite being a convicted killer and alleged homophobia and discrimination.
Leo said he would send a letter to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) asking them to suspend rugby from the Games until World Rugby complied with the IOC’s code of ethics.
Friday, speaking to Rugby Pass, said suspending rugby after its return to the Olympic fold in 2016 – after 90 years in the wilderness – would have major financial implications for the sport and it was wrong to air “dirty washing in public”.
Mike, this isnt @pacificwelfare threatening place in Olympics. More Rugbys archaic governance that’s in bad need of reform& non-compliant with Olympic ethics
I agree-there should be sensible conversation with WR rather than airing dirty washing in public
— Daniel Leo (@danleo82) April 29, 2020
Leo responded in a tweet:”Mike, this isnt @pacificwelfare threatening place in Olympics. More Rugbys archaic governance that’s in bad need of reform& non-compliant with Olympic ethics. I agree-there should be sensible conversation with WR rather than airing dirty washing in public. Over to you @WorldRugby.”
Kean, who served jail time for manslaughter after a 2006 killing, has since been stood down from attempting to join the World Rugby executive committee.
Friday has been at the heart of a revolution in American rugby sevens, helping to bring the side alongside the top teams such as Fiji, New Zealand and South Africa. The Englishman says Olympic status is crucial for the development of rugby globally.
He told RugbyPass: “This is a pretty juvenile strong-arm tactic to throw out there given all the work that has been done to get sevens into the Olympics. More importantly, sevens is the only authentic way we can make the sport global. Being out of the Games could have serious effects for those who come out of and we need to be careful using the sport as a political football.
“I would be unfair for USA, Canada and the non-traditional rugby nations which are the commercial markets that will assist the Pacific Islands in the development of their rugby. There should be sensible conversations being held with World Rugby rather than airing our dirty washing in public. We have battled hard to get to this position and don’t need the ladder kicked away from us particularly at this very difficult time. Next year’s Olympic Games in Japan is huge for sevens going forward.”
Leo said in the same article: “That Francis Kean was on the Council, and was nominated for ExCo, is an embarrassment for World Rugby. We must ensure that this never happens again.
“Asking the WR council themselves to make the changes that would block high-level politicians and the like from sitting on that council though is like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas. Hence we need another governing body with interests in the game to oversee that process.”
Main photo: Asian Rugby