Francis Kean, the chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union, and a key supporter of Bill Beaumont’s bid for re-election as World Rugby’s chairman, has stood down from the global governing body’s council amid allegations of homophobia and discrimination.
Pressure has been mounting on World Rugby and Beaumont following new allegations published in the Sunday Times which claimed to have heard a record of Kean, while he was in charge of the Fiji prison service, in which the paper alleged homophobic language was used.
World Rugby came under further fire on Monday night when Dan Leo, chief executive of Pacific Island Players Welfare, sent an extraordinary letter condemning the nomination of Keane – who was convicted of manslaughter in 2007 – the governing body’s executive committee.
“If the values of World Rugby really are integrity, respect, solidarity, passion and discipline, all of this – and the claim to have been building character since 1823 – will be utterly debased if Kean is elected to the Exco,” Leo wrote.
“So I find myself asking this obvious question: why does World Rugby have some of the most elaborate and exhaustive eligibility checks for those who play the game but apparently no checks for someone wanting to run the game. Even when that person couldn’t get a visa to watch Fiji in the opening match of the 2015 RWC or the 2018 RWC 7s because of his criminal record for violent killing.”
World Rugby had pledged to investigate the allegations against Kean but, such has been the backlash to his nomination, he has now taken the decision to stand down with the FRU chief executive John O’Connor taking his seat on the global governing body’s council. World Rugby stressed that is own inquiry had not been completed but that the FRU had recognised the need to fully investigate the claims.
A statement read: “World Rugby takes all allegations of behaviour that is not in keeping with the sport’s strong and inclusive values and Bye-Laws extremely seriously. While it is important to stress that any allegations must be validated, following dialogue with World Rugby, the Fiji Rugby Union recognises the seriousness of the allegations made and the need for them to be fully investigated, and that it is in the best interests of the sport that Mr Kean steps down from the council and his executive committee candidature be withdrawn.”
Kean’s resignation brings an end to a sorry tale that has no doubt tarnished Beaumont’s bid for re-election. It was Keane, in his position at the FRU, who seconded Beuamont’s nomination for re-election as World Rugby’s chairman.
Kean was backed in his own bid to join the executive committee by the French federation president Bernard Laporte, who is running to be Beaumont’s vice-chairman. The result of the election, in which Agustin Pichot is running against Beaumont and Laporte, will be announced on 12 May.