Bill Beaumont confirms investigation underway into Fiji’s Francis Kean

World Rugby chairman says his nomination came from Fiji Rugby Union and not chairman

World Rugby chairman  Bill Beaumont has announced an investigation is underway into allegations of homophobia by Fiji Rugby Union chairman Francis Kean. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has announced an investigation is underway into allegations of homophobia by Fiji Rugby Union chairman Francis Kean. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont has confirmed an investigation is underway into allegations of homophobia by Fiji Rugby Union chairman Francis Kean.

Beaumont, 68, who has been re-elected for a second four-year term, stressed it was the Fiji Rugby Union and not Kean, who seconded his nomination.

“I was nominated by the union not the individual,” said Beaumont. “As soon as we heard about the allegations we obviously took a strong line about it and Francis Kean stepped down.”

Last month The Sunday Times published “graphic recordings” of bullying, believed to be Kean’s voice, during his role as head of the Fiji prison service.

Kean and Beaumont served together on the World Rugby Council – the governing body’s primary decision-making group – since November 2018.

“We encourage all unions to take inspiration from Fiji and Samoa, review their governance and strive to achieve the required criteria,” said Beaumont at the time of Kean’s addition to the council.

However, Beaumont’s re-election manifesto stated that governance reform is needed once again.

“We will certainly be looking at our governance, with a governance report,” said Beaumont on Sunday morning via a press conference on Zoom when asked how much “stress” the Fijian situation has caused him personally.

Last month Kean stood down from the council, and was replaced by Fiji rugby chief executive John O’Connor, with his name also removed from the ballot to be elected to World Rugby’s executive committee. Kean’s nomination was seconded by France and its president Bernard Laporte, who ran on Beaumont’s successful ticket as his vice chairman.

Kean – who was sentenced to 18 months for manslaughter committed at the Fiji prime minister Frank Bainimarama daughter’s wedding in 2006 – remains the chairman of the Fiji rugby union.

“There is an investigation taking place,” Beaumont added.

World Rugby are yet to reveal who is leading this investigation or what power they possess.

“Kean’s time in office has become a byword for intimidation, vindictiveness, corruption and self-dealing, nepotism, and the threat and realisation of violence,” said Daniel Leo, the chief executive of the Pacific Island players’ association. “This is all conducted in plain sight.”

Beaumont, who defeated Agustín Pichot by 28 votes to 23, intends to revive the Nations Championship – a global international league – which was effectively halted last year by the Six Nations unions.

The former English lock noted that the Nations Championship will not require the Six Nations to move from their traditional February and March slot as the new plan will revolve around fixtures in July and November.

“We will be looking again at a variation of the Nations Championship,” he said. “It is one of the big regrets I’d like to put away. We have learned from [last year’s] experience.”

Beaumont also highlighted “quite a few ideas” to form a global women’s competition with promotion and relegation.

Relegation led to the Six Nations unions stymieing the men’s version of this plan in 2019. That remains a major obstacle.

“What we will try and do is bring in a new competition that keeps the Six Nations as a stand alone competition,” said Beaumont. “My own view of the Nations Cup is that maybe after a while not all Six Nations teams are playing in that competition at that top level.

“But the Six Nations is owned, as you know, by the Six Nations and it has been going for 150-odd years and certainly that would not be the intention currently. But who knows? There might be an appetite for the Six Nations. I don’t know. There might be. Currently it hasn’t been discussed.”

World Rugby clarified a desire to build “a strong second and third tier” of nations.

Beaumont added: “Sitting below that we would have a subsidiary competition with all the emerging nations and you could well have promotion and relegation.

“We still have to find the funding – same for the women’s game – that will enable an emerging nations tournament to take place.”

On the potential for the World Cup to go behind a broadcast paywall, the WR chairman stated: “Who would have thought you can watch matches on your smart phone 20 years ago? This is the change we will embrace within World Rugby. As I am sure all unions will embrace as well as there is a generation out there that do not watch their sport in a traditional way that you and I was brought up – or certainly me – so we have to be adaptable to move to what the market wants. We have that flexibility within World Rugby.”

Beaumont earlier announced that former UK sports minister Hugh Robertson will lead an independent governance review of World Rugby.

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