Unfortunately for Bainimarama and the utterly clueless (as well as illegal and treasonous) Commerce Commissioner, Mahendra Reddy and inept "Minister in charge", Filipe Bole -- their jurisdiction cannot be imposed on the International Rugby Board, to which the FRU is accredited.
* JANUARY 26, 2011, 2:17 A.M. ET
Fiji's Rugby Team Caught in Funding Dispute
By LUCY CRAYMER
WELLINGTON, New Zealand—A dispute between international rugby's governing body and Fiji's military-led government has put the top-ranked national team's accreditation at risk ahead of the widely watched Rugby World Cup.
Fiji's rugby team, known as the Flying Fijians, is ranked 10th internationally, but their unique playing style makes them a spectator favorite, and they are one of the drawing cards for the Rugby World Cup in September.
But Fiji's dictatorship earlier this month accused the local rugby board of running an illegal lottery to raise funds for the team. The government ordered the board to resign in exchange for 3 million Fijian dollars (US$1.6 million) to fund the team's participation in the cup, which will be hosted by New Zealand.
The ultimatum spurred concerns about political interference in the sport, and raised concerns over whether the Fijian team's governing body should have its accreditation revoked.
Fiji's sports minister, Filipe Bole couldn't be reached to comment Tuesday.
The International Rugby Board, based in Dublin, is due to send a delegation to Fiji next month to mediate the dispute.
Rafaele Kasibulu, the Fijian board's interim chairman, said the board members retracted their resignations when they received a letter of support from the IRB. Mr. Kasibulu declined to comment on the government's allegation of wrongdoing, but said its monetary offer for the team was about half the amount needed to fund the team in the world cup.
Fiji's government charged the local governing body with five breaches of a code called the Commerce Commission Decree. The charges include deceptive or misleading conduct, unconscionable conduct, false or misleading representation, misleading conduct in relation to goods and failure to provide gifts or prizes offered.
The case will be heard in the High Court in the capital, Suva, said Bobby Majaraj, Chief Executive of Fiji's Commerce Commission, in an email.
Rugby is Fiji's national sport with around 80,000 people playing it in a country with a population of just 850,000. The team reached the quarterfinals of the 2007 World Cup but lost to South Africa. Its Rugby Sevens team missed out on playing in the Commonwealth Games in 2010 because of Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth since 2009.
A spokesman for the International Rugby Board said its chief executive, Mike Miller, will meet with officials from the Fiji board in early February to discuss their initial decision to resign, and to allay concerns about political interference in the sport.
A threat to the local union's independence could force the international body to revoke its accreditation and its right to play in international competition.
"The IRB is concerned about the breach of the bylaws of the constitution," the spokesman said.
The last time a team was excluded from international rugby was between 1976 and 1992, when Commonwealth governments agreed to avoid sporting contact with South Africa because of the country's apartheid regime. The IRB excluded the nation from the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups.
The dispute comes as Fiji's Commodore Frank Bainimarama's military regime, which took power in 2006, increasingly finds itself at loggerheads with international businesses.
Late last year, bottled-drink company Fiji Water closed its plant in the country in response to steep taxes imposed suddenly on companies that extract large volumes of water from the country. The company, owned by billionaire investors Lynda and Stewart Resnick, later reopened the factory after meetings with the government.
Media company News Corp. was forced to close the Fiji Times after the government introduced laws banning foreign ownership of the media, last year. News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal.