Abuse of Young Pacific Talent

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For every Waisake Naholo who makes it big, many more Pacific players find themselves in serious difficulties. 
 Fijian rugby players are being exploited by international player agents to the point where the players are left with just 20 percent of their wages, according to an investigation by the UK Daily Telegraph.

According to the report, one player did not receive 11 months’ salary, leaving him with no money to buy food, toiletries or even a blanket to sleep under. Another player, a former international, faced the prospect of a criminal conviction for unpaid taxes for which his previous club was liable.

Fijian sevens coach Ben Ryan told the Telegraph agents were signing players from Fiji without the proper paperwork which causes major issues and potentially ruins the career prospects of promising players.

“There are so many flaky agents around,” Ryan says. “Rugby league is doing some disgraceful things in Fiji – sending players one-way tickets to Australia on visas that don’t allow them to play professional sport, so they are immediately breaking the law. Then they outstay their visa, get deported and they are banned from going overseas ever again for work they might have done in the future. That is effectively a life sentence.”

Ryan said agents from both league and rugby were exploiting Fijian players.

“Some are doing it the right way and targeting guys who they think will be stars,” Ryan told the Telegraph.

“Lots of clubs are purely by numbers. Chuck them all in the same house, pay them €200-300 a month on short-term contracts. In six months’ time, get rid of most of them and leave one. They do that all the time.”

“I have been to the villages and seen where they live,” Ryan said. “Some of the boys don’t have electricity or running water. As an overseas coach for me to say, ‘You must turn this offer down’ would be ludicrous. The money is such a life-changing amount. The biggest wage we can pay our players is £5000 a year. So to go from that to €100-200,000 a year is very hard to turn down. You just want them to go to the right club at the right time and be with the right agent.”

“You hear the good stories but there are plenty more bad ones,” Ryan said. “Agents end up taking so much money that the player ends up with only 20 per cent of his salary.”

Every week the International Rugby Players’ Association is contacted by a Pacific Island player in need of “desperate assistance” after being cut adrift by their club and abandoned by their agent.

IRPA chief executive Rob Nichol confirmed Fijian players were “preyed upon” by player agents.

“The Islanders are being preyed upon, absolutely,” Nichol said. “There are some despicable individuals who capitalise on their desperation to make a better life for themselves and their families.”

Nichol argues a global agent-accreditation system needs to be set up to stop the exploitation in the Islands.

“We have a number of models operating domestically within tier-one unions but nothing covers the game globally around the standards and expectations that people who wish to represent players in contract negotiations need to be bound by,” Nichol said. “The current regulation that World??Rugby has in place is completely insufficient. At the moment, we are allowing the sharks to eat these kids alive.”

About Michael Faga

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