World Rugby, the Tonga Rugby Union (TRU) and the Tongan government have agreed a package of reforms designed to address ongoing governance concerns within the union and support the future sustainable growth of rugby in Tonga.
Based on a common commitment to preserve and promote rugby development, the positive and constructive meetings in Nuku'alofa, set out to deliver an equitable solution regarding a number of unresolved administration and governance issues, the union's debt and outstanding legal cases.
The agreed strategies include:
– Establishment of a 10-year tripartite funding agreement, encompassing all annual World Rugby, government and TRU funding, committed to the growth of rugby in Tonga in line with good governance criteria
– Establishment of a joint management committee – comprising representatives of World Rugby, Tongan government and the TRU to oversee all aspects of the TRU high-performance programme
– The re-establishment of the Tonga National Rugby Academy to include world-class player pathways and player welfare programmes to provide locally based players with a clear pathway to national team selection
– A restructure of the World Rugby development investment programme to facilitate the re-invigoration of competitions in the outer islands, including 'Eua, Ha'apai and Vavau.
World Rugby Chairman of the Rugby Committee, John Jeffrey, who attended the meetings, said: "Tonga holds a special place in the history and future of rugby and rugby holds a special place in the cultural, economic and social fabric of the kingdom.
"We are committed to working with the Tongan government and union to address the apparent issues and this prudent support package is a reflection of our collective commitment to rugby in Tonga and World Rugby's ongoing support of rugby in the Pacific Islands.
"This collaboration and investment will provide an environment to further grassroots development for the wider rugby family in Tonga, while strengthening the high performance environment that provides a dedicated pathway for local players to represent Tonga on the international stage.
"Good governance is central to World Rugby membership and World Rugby remains committed to rugby in Tonga and supporting a robust and sustainable administrative and governance framework within the union that will enable the union to prosper on and off the field of play.
"This support package will also provide a pathway and an opportunity for the union to strive to gain eventual representation on an expanded World Rugby Council and we will work closely with the union to ensure that they have the ability to achieve the requisite good governance criteria.”