Change, new ideas perhaps?

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. One of the worst kept secrets in Samoa has finally been let out of the bag. It happened on Tuesday afternoon during an interview between this newspaper and Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, as the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U.). 

“We are bankrupt,” he declared. “In other words we are insolvent. It means the Union cannot continue to pay off our debts with the banks. We also need money to pay the players so they can continue to play.”

The fact that the Samoa Rugby Union has been broke for a while is not a secret.

We’ve known it all along and to be fair to the administrators, there have been external factors beyond Samoa’s control that could have helped. 

Being broke though is sometimes an acceptable part of life. Many of us will know what it feels like to be broke. But to be “bankrupt” and declared insolvent is something else. 

If we are honest, this has to be one of the more shameful episodes we as a nation have had to endure. It is shameful on many different levels, especially more painful when we stop to consider the contribution by Samoa and players of Samoan ethnicity to the growth of rugby as a sport globally. 

Think of how much better off World Rugby has been thanks to Samoan rugby and the contribution by our players all over the world.

But let’s not be foolish here; let’s not begin to blame the world for our problems. It’s true that other factors like gate sharing, player eligibility rules and other matters could have helped advance our fortunes. That is a continuing battle with its roots deeply entrenched in a colonial mentality where some folks think they are better than others. That’s not the point of this piece.

Truth be told though, the situation we’ve found ourselves in today, to use a soccer term, is an own goal. It has come about after years of bad decision-making, poor management, abuse and the lack of accountability, transparency and good governance where it matters. 

In other words, the writing has been on the wall, for a very long time. How can we forget the fiasco about alcohol abuse, poor management and dishonesty after the 2011 Rugby World Cup? Now isn’t it ironic that some of those people who were directly involved then have slowly crept back in the system and now calling for more help from members of the public?

Folks, let’s be honest with ourselves here. We all love our rugby and anything to do with Manu Samoa, whether its Manu Samoa 15s or Sevens, we will always go out of our way to support it. And once more, we witnessed this on Wednesday night with the outpouring of love from across the nation when the Chairman of the Union, Prime Minister Tuilaepa called for help during the Radiothon. 

In scenes reminiscent of the Manu Samoa’s wheel barrow days, people donated $1, $2, $100, $1,000 and up to $160,000 because they love their team. After 10 hours, more than $350,000 had been pledged by the people for the team, officials and the Samoa Rugby Union.

Personally I disagree with what has been happening, I am angry about some of the things the S.R.U. has done but I am a proud Samoan and I will do the little that I can to help. It is why my children and I donated. 

Many people will share the same feeling. Warts and all, we are a nationalistic lot, we are proud of our teams and we want Samoan rugby to grow.

But how do we do that given what is happening? Where do we go from here?

With the declaration by the Prime Minister that the Union is bankrupt, there is no doubt we have hit rock bottom. 

It doesn’t get any worse than that. The Prime Minister Tuilaepa and his Union’s administrators have to accept the fact the buck stops with them. The failure of the Union comes back to the decisions they make. It’s that simple whether they like it or not.

When the teams perform poorly, coaches are sacked and we’ve sacked far too many coaches in the not too distant past. 

But who is responsible for the S.R.U’s performance? How did all those “laui’a” allow this to reach the state of bankruptcy? Who should be held accountable? And who has been lording over the decision making at the Union? 

We cannot point the finger to the Football Federation, the Hockey Association or the Cricket Association. The hammer must fall on the nail and that is the S.R.U. 

This is nothing new though. We’ve said this before time and time again.

But maybe - just maybe - with the admission by the Prime Minister that S.R.U. is bankrupt after all these years under their watch, it’s now really time for him to step aside and let someone else have a go.  We’re grateful for all the work that they have done, don’t get us wrong. We say thank you because we know they have done some good things.

But looking at what is happening today, it’s clearly not good enough. The results off and on the field have just been appalling. They speak volumes.

Why don’t we try something different? Change is surely needed. New ideas perhaps? 

What do you think? 

Write and share your thoughts with us! 

Have a fabulous Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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