Profit-sharing deal could transform Pacific Islands rugby, says Dan Leo

Pacific Rugby campaigners are lobbying top unions for a profit-sharing initiative.

By Press Association Published: 21 August 2019 - 9.44am

Pacific Rugby campaigners are pushing Europe’s top unions to agree a profit-sharing deal that could help transform the Test fortunes of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji.

Pacific Rugby Players Welfare (PRPW) hopes to organise a meeting with World Rugby and the decision-makers at the English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and French unions to thrash out a new deal for the Pacific Island nations.

Chief executive Dan Leo confirmed PRPW has proposed that those tier one nations agree a 10 per cent profit share when hosting the Pacific Island nations in November Test matches in Europe.

Rugby Union – Guinness Premiership – London Wasps v Worcester – Adams Park Stadium
Dan Leo in his playing days at Wasps (Daniel Hambury/PA)

Leo said just 10 per cent of profits from a sell-out Twickenham crowd could fund Samoa’s senior rugby programmes for as long as three years.

“We’ve been highlighting problems in Pacific Islands rugby for some time and also lobbying for change, but this really feels like the start of something hugely positive,” Leo told the PA news agency.

“We’ve been in contact with the unions in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and France, and all have been positive about this idea, and about meeting with us.

“We’re in discussions with World Rugby too, and we hope the next steps are to formalise these talks in sit-down meetings.

“A profit-share like this would be huge. Say for the sake of argument the RFU could make a £10million profit on a sell-out match at Twickenham.

“Well, £1million could fund Samoa’s programmes for three years.”

Former Wasps lock Leo was among the group of Samoa stars who threatened to strike ahead of facing England at Twickenham back in November 2014.

That squad’s concerns stretched beyond low pay and into worries over union governance, but Leo believes World Rugby has helped the national unions in the Pacific Islands solve many of those issues in the last five years.

“A deal like this would mean the union could pay the players more than £300 or £400 for the match, they might be able to afford £2,000 or £3,000 per player,” said Leo.

“But it’s not only about the difference it makes for players, it could also generate a stronger game in the islands.

“We feel that home matches against tier one nations are not the answer, the stadia are small and the people there don’t have money for tickets either.

“We need to be able to remunerate players fairly, or in closer comparison to tier one nations.

“So we want to shoot at the heart of the problem rather than deal with the symptoms.

“The eligibility is a symptom of the problem that the Pacific Islands don’t have any money.

“We need to negotiate some sort of profit share with tier one nations hosting tier two.

Gloucester Rugby v Bristol Bears – Gallagher Premiership – Kingsholm Stadium
Bristol and Samoa star Chris Vui would be among those to benefit from PRPW’s proposals (David Davies/PA)

“So that’s what we’re asking for. But I don’t think a request for a profit share of 10 per cent is astronomical.

“Player eligibility issues and the migration of talent to Europe is a symptom of the fact the Pacific Islands don’t have any money, or any means of generating any money.

“We hope a profit share like this could be the catalyst to help the Pacific Islands set up semi-professional leagues on the islands.

“And that would help keep players at home rather than heading to overseas to play their rugby.”