World Rugby, the global governing body for rugby union, has suspended its rights deal for the Sevens World Series with Fijian commercial broadcaster Fiji TV, according to the Stuff.co.nz website.
Fiji recently became a democratic nation after moving from a military dictatorship.
Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama in May, while still leading the military dictatorship, took exception to Fiji TV taking sole ownership of broadcast rights to the Sevens World Series in the country. Bainimarama then imposed the ‘Television (cross-Carriage of Designated Events) Decree', under which matches must be shared across private and public television channels.
However, Susan Ahern, head of legal and legislative affairs at World Rugby, said the governing body has decided to halt any coverage in Fiji as a result of the decree.
“At the outset we wish to make clear that World Rugby is respectful at all times of applicable national laws," Ahern wrote in a letter published by Stuff.co.nz. “However, it has been our experience in the past that the countries which have brought in similar legislation or directives to that of Fiji have engaged in prior consultation process involving World Rugby.”
Attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who drafted the decree, is reportedly in discussions with Fiji Broadcasting over the crisis. He said the decree was created as some areas of Fiji cannot pick up the Fiji TV signal and a sole broadcast agreement would mean people in these areas could not access coverage.
“It is hoped that the World Rugby management understand that this law is put in place to perpetuate rugby as a major sporting event in Fiji,” he said. “This is the message that we are sending to World Rugby; that it does not in any way undermine the rights they have given to others, but it enhances it and popularises rugby even further in Fiji.”
Ahern added: “If World Rugby cannot be sure that its contractual terms can be respected without external interference, it has no option but to consider the status of the contract with Fiji TV.”
Fiji has a huge interest in rugby sevens and its national team leads the World Series standings following the first round of the 2014-15 season in Australia on October 11-12. The second round is scheduled to begin in Dubai tomorrow (Friday).