PM Tu‘i‘onetoa asks International Rugby League to readmit Tonga after expulsion saying gov’t will reform league in kingdom

Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa has written to the International Rugby League (IRL) and told them he has revoked a letter by former Acting Prime Minister Sēmisi Sika on September 20, 2019.

Hon Tu’i’onetoa said in his letter that his government still acknowledged TNRL as a legally incorporated society under Tongan laws and it was the government’s body responsible for the Rugby League in Tonga and overseas.

He asked IRL and its member countries to readmit TNRL to the international body’s membership.   

“That we seek a review and lifting by the board of IRL and its member countries of the expulsion of the TNRL,” the Prime Minister said in a copy of his letter seen by Kaniva.

“That the government of Tonga and IRL work together with the TNRL to review and resolve its financial and governance issue and have these completed by 30 June 2020.”

The Prime Minister was currently in Morocco and in an email to Kaniva News this afternoon he said he believed the letter written by Hon Sika last year has no legal basis and it affected attempts to resolve the problems with Rugby League in Tonga.

The Prime Minister was referring to a letter sent by Hon Sika “to the global body, saying the TNRL had lost the trust and support of local clubs and players and he urged them to recognise the new Tongan federation.”

“The IRL cited these government concerns as a trigger for action, although days later Sika was no longer in power due to a parliamentary reshuffle.”

Sika was also the president of the old TNRL board, which had been dismissed by the Tongan Supreme Court and replaced by  the current one.

Hon Tu’i’onetoa told IRL his  government  would reform the TNRL  

As Kaniva news reported last week, the International Rugby League board has expelled Tonga from the sport’s governing body, the latest move in a long-running battle over governance, money and a threatened player boycott.

According to RNZ, the TNRL has been suspended since October, after it sacked national head coach Kristian Woolf over disagreements around control and finances, which led players to threaten a boycott of the World Cup 9s and end of season tests.

International Rugby League recommended a package of reforms for the sport in Tonga in December, at the end of a two-month investigation into the operation and governance of the game in the country.

At the time, global operations manager Danny Kazandjian said: “It was evident that the current governance model was capable of improvement to reflect the current circumstances of Tonga”.

Thirty days of consultation ended in January and, in a statement, International Rugby League confirmed a resolution had been passed at a board meeting on Thursday to expel Tonga NRL from the membership.

“The directors carefully considered the position of Tonga National Rugby League (TNRL), which has been suspended since October 2019, in the light of a wide-ranging consultation with stakeholders in the Tongan game.

“After that meeting, the Board wrote to TNRL, advising them of the resolution passed at that meeting, which is to expel TNRL from the membership.”

Tonga has appealed its expulsion.

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