The kicker is that the team is likely now to be privately owned, with the union holding a minority stake in the franchise.
The entry of one or more Pasifika sides into Super Rugby has been the subject of much debate in the southern hemisphere, with Moana Pasifika set to enter future Super Rugby competitions. A third bid – Kanaloa Pasifika – even threatened to sue the New Zealand Rugby (NZR) after their bid was snubbed last November.
The NZR have already offered Fiji the opportunity to enter a side into the competition in 2020, provided they meet certain conditions, mainly pertaining to financial sustainability. However, to meet said criteria, it now looks likely that the team – Fijian Drua – will be owned by one or more private investors, as well as the Fijian Rugby Union.
In a statement released today, Fiji say they have now completed “one of the key steps in finalising its Business Plan which will underpin the Fijian Drua’s proposed entry in 2022.”
FRU CEO, John O’Connor said “The prospect of the Fijian Drua playing in Super Rugby will be a dream come true, if we can meet the financial hurdles needed to sustain such a team. Having the resources to offer competitive playing contracts to not only bring our best players home, but to keep our best local talent in Fiji is our key objective. We want to field a team that is capable of reaching the Finals in its’ first year and winning the competition within 5 years.”
“The Super rugby games held in Fiji in recent years show the passion of our fans and support for Super Rugby, and with a Fijian team representing our country, we are very confident that the local Fijians will turn out to passionately support the Drua,” O’Connor added.
“We are adopting a structure very similar to those which operate at existing provincial unions in Australia and New Zealand”, O’Connor said. “The team will have their own Head Coach, and coaching structure, and there will be a Chief Executive Officer and back-office support team. We expect to have a 37 man playing squad in Year 1, with coaching and administration staff of up to a further 28 people”.
According to the FRU, any ‘new entrant will need to meet stringent financial conditions set down by New Zealand Rugby Union which include the requirement to hold substantial cash assets and provide financial guarantees to ensure the team’s long-term viability.’
O’Connor said “We have been aware for some time that we would need to raise capital to meet the financial hurdles. We want the team to be properly capitalised so that it can be in place for twenty years and more, not just a few. NZ Rugby rightfully insists on there being enough financial resources to sustain team operations even if we have a bad year or two”.
The statement goes on to say: “As a result of the financial requirements, Fiji Rugby has decided to seek private capital and is offering a majority ownership of the entity which will own and operate the team. Together with its’ Business Plan, FRU has also prepared a detailed Information Memorandum to outline the opportunity and attract Investors.”
In short, Fiji’s bid for a place in Super Rugby 2022 is likely to be reliant on the union securing private capital for the venture, effectively meaning that a private entity will own a majority stake in the team.
O’Connor said “Private capital is a fact of life for sporting teams and franchises around the world, and we are embracing it, at the same time making sure that Fiji Rugby has an appropriate say in policy and key decisions around the team. We intend to seek NZ$10 million in capital and we’re confident that our proposal will attract strong interest from Investors in Australia, New Zealand and around the world. Ideally, we’d like Fijian investors also, but we’re looking for either a single investor, or at most three or four entities to back our team”.
The statement from the union goes on to say: “The Business Plan envisages playing at least six home games in Fiji each year, against blockbuster teams such as the Chiefs, Crusaders, Blues, Reds and Brumbies.”
“The confidential Business Plan provided to New Zealand Rugby Union not only outlines the financial targets and the initial playing squad and coaching structure, but also details the complete administrative structures to support the team.”