Drua to inject $15m

Members of the Fiji Airways Fijian Drua side during their captains run at Churchill Park in Lautoka. Picture: BALJEET SINGH/FILE

THE inclusion of the Fijian Drua team into Super Rugby competition from next year is a financial and economic saviour for Fiji amidst the global infection of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fiji’s participation in the annual tournament, regarded as the most entertaining rugby competition on the planet, is expected to rake in more than $15 million annually to the country.

New Zealand Rugby, on Wednesday, announced that a conditional licence has been awarded to the Fijian Drua, which will be a separate entity from the Fiji Rugby Union, to play in the Super Rugby competition from 2022 onwards.

“The addition of the Fijian Drua will create over 65 new jobs, injecting in excess of $6m Fiji dollar in salaries alone to the economy.

With other spending and taxes, the economic impact is expected to exceed $15m annually,” FRU chairman Conway Beg said.

“With the prospect of hosting matches against the likes of the Crusaders, Brumbies, Blues and Reds every year, we will not only attract huge crowds and attendance from local Fijians, but also welcome hundreds of overseas fans who can combine following their team with a holiday at Fiji’s wonderful holiday resorts and islands.”

FRU general manager commercial Brian Thorburn said the good news was a result of years of hard work.

“This outcome has been months and years in the making. We had been working on this since last August when New Zealand Rugby asked us to submit an expression of interest and the enormous amount of work since then has culminated at where we are today,” he said.

“New Zealand Rugby has laid a range of conditions on potential interests to Super Rugby, not only that the new teams to be competitive on the field, but equally important to have the financial backing to be sustained in a long period of time.

“Minimal level of capital access and reserves in underwriting has been a critical piece of this jigsaw. Accessing private investors to obtain that capital is the only realistic way of achieving the sustainability that is required.”

He said New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade helped the FRU compile a comprehensive business plan which had been given to a number of investors to see if they were interested in helping the Fijian Drua concept.

“Although the process has not been fully complete, we believe that we will be able to finalise those arrangements in the coming weeks to comply with the remaining conditions with our licence.

“In addition to the capital raising in the next few months, we will be appointing a range of sponsors, licences, suppliers, and we invite interest from local companies in that context.”

The Fijian Drua and Moana Pasifika were awarded licences to play alongside five Super Rugby teams in New Zealand and five from Australia.

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