World Rugby angry tone hints that 7s-passionate Fiji faces a black out of next month’s Wellington 7s and they could also miss out on this year’s Rugby World Cup (RWC).

World Rugby angry at Fijian goverment’s handling of sevens TV coverage black outs

World Rugby angry at Fijian govermentVia stuff.co.nz RESPONSIBLE: World Rugby says any failure to broadcast rugby in Fiji will be the fault of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s government.

A leaked letter from World Rugby (WR) has revealed fury at the way Fiji’s government seized international sevens television coverage and made it available to a state owned network at no cost.

Its angry tone hints that 7s-passionate Fiji faces a black out of next month’s Wellington 7s and they could also miss out on this year’s Rugby World Cup (RWC). World Rugby (the renamed International Rugby Board) explicitly says any failure to broadcast rugby in Fiji will not be their fault, but the fault of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama’s government.

Fiji leads the standings in this year’s interminable HSBC Sevens World Series and is passionate about the game in a way no other country is.

That’s how it got into trouble. In May, while still leading a military dictatorship, Bainimarama took exception to the publicly listed Fiji TV owning sole broadcast rights. By military decree he ordered Fiji TV to share the broadcast with struggling state-owned Fiji Broadcasting (FBC) which is run by the younger brother of the military appointed Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. The Gold Coast 7s were the first to be forcibly shared and then the FIFA World Cup. Then WR found out and blocked Fiji from the Dubai 7s, creating a social media furore in Fiji.

As Fiji ran into the first black-out, Sayed-Khaiyum accused WR of being a bully.

When the broadcasts were later restored, pending negotiation, he claimed the New Zealand Rugby Union had helped Fiji get them back. But today Fijileaks (http://www.fijileaks.com/ ), a blogsite with a reputation for getting government documents, published a bruising letter to Sayed-Khaiyum from WR lawyer Susan Ahern and commercial head Murray Barnett. They bluntly blame the Fiji Government for the blacked out television screens: “it is not the fault of Fiji TV or World Rugby.” The letter noted that the military regime had threatened Fiji TV with heavy penalties if they tried to block FBC taking the 7s feed. The letter says the decision to share the feed was taken by Fiji TV not WR and “was on foot of a demand from your office to do so….

“WR takes the view that there has been contractual interference and we are within our rights (and indeed our obligation to the whole of the global rugby family and supporters) to withhold the provision of the feed to the series from Fiji TV pending satisfactory engagement and clarifications from the Fiji Government – none of which have been provided to date.”

Fiji TV had been forced by the regime into breach of its exclusive contract for the 7s.

“We are conscious that it is the Fijian population who will be disadvantaged if the dialogue does not commence – but that is entirely within the hands of your department,” they tell Sayed-Khaiyum. The letter suggests WR has watched Sayed-Khaiyum public abuse of them closely. “Please identify specifically the ‘erroneous facts and assumptions’ you say World Rugby has made and why you consider them to be ‘erroneous’.” The letter notes that other countries have designated event legislation but nothing as “broad and all-encompassing” as that which Fiji is applying. “We would be interested for example to understand how matches not involving the Fiji Sevens national team could be of national importance in Fiji?”

The letter said there was no evidence that the Fiji Government was trying to consult “and we are asking that you do so now and engage with event owners.”

The letter ends by suggesting to the Fiji Government that if they really did value rugby, they would “engage properly in meaningful discussions” over the broadcasting rights.

They note that Sayed-Khaiyum claimed Fiji had permission from FIFA last year to share their World Cup feed but when WR checked with FIFA head office in Switzerland this was not so. Via stuff.co.nz