Fiji Rugby CEO, John O’Connor today welcomed New Zealand Rugby’s announcement that Fiji Rugby had been acknowledged as a preferred partner in future professional rugby competitions for the 2022 season and beyond.
O’Connor said “This is a momentous day for Fiji Rugby with our dream of the Fijian Drua participating at a Super Rugby level on the verge of becoming a reality. We submitted a comprehensive & compelling proposal to NZR in August this year, and our continued discussions and negotiations have now borne fruit. We have a lot of work to do with NZR and other national unions, but our potential entry is really exciting”.
Although the FRU still needs to satisfy NZR of some core entry criteria, notably minimum capital requirements, the announcement by NZR means that FRU planning can progress in the knowledge that a Fijian team’s entry is virtually assured once those capital requirements are met.
O’Connor added “We have been talking to private investors for some time, and are confident that with private equity and the support of World Rugby and Government, we can secure the necessary funding that will satisfy NZR’s requirements and ensure that the Drua can kick off in 2022 with a high-quality team that is competitive. Our goal is to win the competition within five years, and this now gives us the chance to not only attract many of our best players back from Europe to play at home but also to keep our emerging talent at home on playing contracts that are fair and attractive. The Fijian style of play and our fan support around the world will ensure that we make a big impact on the competition”.
Whilst the exact team makeup of the competition is still to be confirmed it is expected that Fiji will host at least five home games during the season against the likes of the Blues, Crusaders & Hurricanes. O’Connor said ”The Super Rugby games played here in Fiji between 2017 and 2019 have laid the foundation for showing our country is ready to host top-level events, and now with a Fijian team set for entry for fans to follow, we expect strong support from both fans and commercial partners.”
General Manager Commercial, Brian Thorburn added “We’ll have several opportunities for local Fijian companies to get involved and will be looking for Team Naming rights, sleeve & short sponsors, as well as suppliers and other partners.”
FRU is also seeking investors willing to take equity shares in the venture, which will be operated from a separate company to that of the FRU.
O’Connor added “This is a golden opportunity for Fijian companies to gain exposure into Australia & New Zealand, and to not only associate with a team on the rise but to have a financial stake as well. The Drua’s success in the Australian Rugby Championship demonstrated our capacity to compete at a higher level, and we look forward to taking the field in early 2022”.