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Rugby could be about to lose its Olympic status thanks to the ‘rampant homophobia’ of a convicted killer

Emma Powys Maurice April 29, 2020
Rugby

The Fiji team won the gold in rugby's Olympic debut in 2016 (Mark Kolbe/Getty)

Rugby could lose its status as an Olympic sport after the World Rugby elections were derailed by claims of “rampant homophobia” from one of its most senior officials.

Francis Kean, the head of the Fiji Rugby Union, was running for a spot on the World Rugby executive committee when he was accused of discrimination and violent homophobic language as part of his day job in charge of Fiji’s prison service.

The UK’s Sunday Times reportedly obtained a recording of Kean – who is the brother-in-law of Fiji’s anti-LGBT+ prime minister – going on an angry homophobic tirade as he instructed two prison officers to assault a young official.

It also emerged that Kean has a criminal record himself, having been sentenced to 18 months in prison for manslaughter after killing a man in a fight at a wedding.

The ensuing scandal forced him to resign and withdraw his bid for the executive committee, but the allegations have fuelled claims of unethical governance in the sport, as well as concerns over the vetting process in place for officials.

The incumbent chairman, former England captain Bill Beaumont, was strongly supported by Kean, and it was widely rumoured that he intended to make Kean his vice-chairman if re-elected to the top job.

The controversy will likely damage his chances in Thursday’s election and potentially place the sport in breach of the IOC’s code of ethics, costing rugby its coveted spot in the Olympics.

Francis Kean, chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union
Francis Kean was chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union (Photo: Fijian Government)

According to the Daily Mail, former Samoa captain and Pacific Welfare CEO Dan Leo has drafted a letter to the IOC calling for an investigation.

“I’m disappointed that World Rugby haven’t launched an open investigation into Kean and [the French Rugby Federation] for nominating him,” he wrote.

“If World Rugby don’t commit to governance reforms, our next letter will be to the International Olympic Committee, asking that they consider suspending rugby as an Olympic sport until they are fully compliant with IOC obligations.

“If it takes some short-term pain, ie being blocked from the Olympics, then so be it. But hopefully the sport can be proactive in this before that would happen.

“We have to push through now and make sure the lessons are learned and, most importantly, acted upon.”

More: fiji, Francis Kean, IOC, olympics, Rugby, world rugby

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