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Super 12 a super rip-off [The Sunday Times, 3 Dec 2000]


Everyone believes in Free Trade, do they?

A few months ago (somewhat late in the day), the “big boys on the block” (Australia and NZ ) began to agitate to be part of the Free Trade Area that the Pacific Island Countries are moving towards.

Generally, a good idea, this “free trade” business.  Economists see lots of mutual advantages, although there can be some negatives, especially for the weaker or inefficient producers.

But do our Big Brothers, the Aussies and the Kiwis, really believe in Free Trade?

But in Super 12? No Fiji, Samoa or Tonga

Take the Super Twelve rugby.

Throughout the Pacific, and the rugby-mad countries ofAustralia, NZ andSouth Africa, millions of households plan their weekends around the broadcasts of Super Twelve matches.

Tens of millions are glued to TV sets watching the Super Twelve clashes- probably one of the most exciting spectator sports today.

Super Twelve is not just sport, but “Big Business”.  It generates billions of dollars annually- for the rugby players, the rugby unions, the sports equipment companies,  advertising companies, and all the spinoff industries linked to this great entertainment.

But sobo.

We see Joeli Vidiri and Vunibaka, but notFiji.   We see Jonah Lomu, but notTonga. We see Tana Umaga, but notSamoa.

The rugby stars fromFiji, Samoa andTongacan go and play in Australian and NZ teams, and in matches in these countries.  But our teams cannot enter their competition.

In Super 12, not Free Trade but Bullying Cartel, Monopoly,

And why not?

BecauseAustralia, NZ andSouth Africa(and their rugby unions), do not believe in “free trade” in rugby.

Nope.   They believe in monopoly.  Cartel.  Guild behaviour.  Restrictive trade.  Barriers to free entry to their competitions.  Just like the old colonial days.

Australia and NZ will take the rugby raw materials (Vidiri, Lomuh, Umaga) from the colonies, but refuse to allow in the finished value-added products (Pacific Island teams) to challenge their teams in the rugby market of the Super Twelve competition.

Very similar to the economic evils of trade protectionism,  that the WTO is trying to reduce.

It is sad, that the Australian, NZ, and South African rugby unions, are preventing impoverishedPacificIslandpeople from deriving all the numerous economic benefits which could accrue, should they be part of the Super Twelve Competition.

The benefits for Fiji, Samoa and Tonga in included

Imagine a combined Fiji/Tonga/Samoa Team, playing “home” matches in rotation inFiji,TongaandSamoa.  Generating probably the largest gate takings ever, in each of these three countries.

Really boosting the rugby games in the islands,  bringing more island stars to the attention of the international rugby world, leading to more exports of talent overseas.

And don’t tell me that the Super Twelve rugby teams would not like to come to home matches inFiji, Samoa orTonga(on a rotating basis).

Island tourism would subsidize

To reduce playing costs in the islands, tourist industries in these countries could give subsidised accommodation to the visiting teams at key resorts, as part of the rugby package.

Imagine television cameras fromAustraliaand NZ following their own stars around the resorts, the great sandy beaches, the gorgeous reefs, and the inevitableIslandbelles drooling over the muscular hulks?

How effective to have these images splashed as advertisements for the host country, during the televising of the Super Twelve match with the Pacific team.

So what canAustraliaand NZ do about it?

What are the Aussie and Kiwi Business Councils doing about it?

Virtually every year, the Aussies and Kiwis throw big boozing parties in Fiji (only they call them meetings of the Fiji-Australia Business Council or the Fiji-NZ Business Council, or Friends of Australia, or Friends of NZ, etc.).

Their High Commissioners and our Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Trade, and every one else wanting a free drink, get very friendly and convivial after a few shots of this and that.

Great speeches  are made, enthusing about developing trade betweenFijiandAustralia, orFijiand NZ.   And about the Big Boys giving the little boys on the block a bit of a helping hand, with Sparteca andLomeand all that.

And rightfully so.  Economists know that the biggest challenge for economic integration  everywhere (from the Carribean to Europe andAsia) is to ensure that the benefits go not just to the rich and powerful countries, but are shared with the weaker partners.

Need for Island Diplomatic Attack as a Trade Initiative

So it is high time that the High Commissioners of Australia and NZ did something about encouraging “free trade” in  the Super Twelve rugby competition, the one “regional” economic activity that hundreds and thousands of Fijians, Samoans, Tongans, really care about.

How start it off?

For a start, Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Commerce and Industries should treat our continued exclusion from Super Twelve as economic warfare, not a mere sporting insult.   This item should be on the agenda on every regional FORUM Meeting.

The next time these Ministers are getting sloshed at the Australian High Commissioner’s entertainment bures in Tamavua, they could get her in a ruck, maul, or scrum, and discuss the dismantling ofAustralia’s restrictive trade practice in the Super Twelve.

The Kiwi High Commissioner, may well be sympathetic, having himself poached a gene or two from the Pacific Islanders.

Copy English Premier League: drop the bottom two Super 12 teams


Fiji, Samoa andTonga(and other Pacific rugby playing nations) could put up a joint Team- the “Pacific Octopus” – which  would challenge the weakest three teams in the Super Twelve Competition.  What are sharks, bulls, cats and crusaders in front of the Pacific Raquita, with its numerous tentacles?


If successful against any one of them, the Octopus would replace that Team.


This could then become a regular feature of the Super Twelve competition.   Just as in the British Soccer League, the Super Twelve should throw out 2 Teams at the bottom of their league table at the end of season, and bring in the 2 strongest challengers from the outside, for the new season.  What an incentive for all Teams to play their hearts out to the end of the season!


Free Trade is fine.  But let us have genuine competition.  Let us have genuine free entry and exit in all the industries.


And let us start in the one trade that all Pacific Islanders really care about- the Super Twelve Rugby competition.

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