Fiji rugby feels the heat

Pressure mounts on Fij i Rugby Union to investigate Ben Ryan’s sevens franchise

BEN Ryan has been labelled a “master coach”. But he is also the mastermind behind the idea to franchise the Fiji 7s team to address the financial welfare of the players, keep the fans happy, and make money for the Fiji Rugby Union. Since last August’s inaugural Olympic gold medal feat for rugby sevens, the FRU has not attempted to leverage its key resource, the Fiji 7s brand. It refuses to comment on the issue, except for a slur in Parliament by the Sports Minister linking the idea to the way McDonald’s and Starbucks run their business, purely for commercial profiteering.

But Ryan’s idea of franchising the Fiji 7s team is based on the Green Bay Packers model. “When I talk franchise, I talk Green Bay Packers. That type of franchise that could work,” Ryan told the ABC Pacific Beat. The Green Bay Packers is a professional American football team that sells shares to its fans to raise money.

It is a public, non-profit organization whose shares do not gain value. They don’t pay dividends and ownership can only be transferred to immediate family members. There’s a $200,000 cap limit on individual shares to prevent any one person becoming the majority owner. In 2011, the Packers needed money to upgrade their stadium so they sold 185,000 new shares at $250 each to raise the $46.25 million they needed.

Profits are re-invested back into the franchise, while 60 per cent of gains from share concession sales are given to local charities. The team has won 13 World Series and 4 Super Bowls. Ryan is adamant the Packers model would suit the Fiji 7s.

Fiji has the fan-base support from individuals and corporate groups both locally and abroad to raise money the FRU don’t seem to have to maintain the Olympic and World Series winning teams. Player’s contracts continue to plague the team while facilities and other crucial resources are scarcely available.

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