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Baravilala faces the challenge Underline 01 January, 2012

New FRU CEO - Manasa Baravilala.

He will officially start in his new role as chief executive officer of the Fiji Rugby Union on January 1.The job comes with its challenges, especially as Fiji Rugby stands at the brink of major changes. But Lakeba native Manasa Baravilala is ready for the challenge.

With a marketing and management background, Baravilala shares his thoughts, his wishes and focuses on what he’d like to work on over the next 12 months.

Baravilala talked with the Fiji Sun’s ILIESA TORA as he takes the driver’s seat at Rugby House. 

IT: You have had some time to get a feel of operations at Rugby House over the past few weeks. With your official appointment effective from January 1, 2012, what are some things that you would like to see done first up as you start your term? 

MB: Obviously there’s a great deal of work to do at all levels. Finance has always been a critical issue with FRU, long before I arrived. Our ability to run programmes and participate in tournaments is predicated on funding. Developing Rugby House into a sustainable business model with adequate funding and revenue stream is a priority. Particularly when Fiji is recognized for its ability to host IRB sanctioned regional rugby tournaments because of our location, facilities and event management competency. 

The Board engaged PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) to conduct a review of Rugby House which includes finance, human resource, administration, marketing, operations etc and, to a large degree, we will be guided by their recommendation. It is practical to wait for the consultant’s report before we commit to any long term planning. However, I believe that the review is timely and necessary because it can highlight more cost-efficient ways to conduct our business and increase productivity.

IT: How do you see those things being achieved and what would you expect from the staff at Rugby House? 

MB: People are our most valuable asset at Rugby House and my priority would be developing people and ensuring they have the proper tools and skill sets to accomplish their jobs successfully. I addressed the entire staff on my first day at Rugby House on December 1, and shared some of my thoughts and values for Fiji Rugby moving forward. Re-establishing a winning culture, respect, honesty, hard work and integrity are all values that are important to rebuild trust amongst our fan base, sponsors and stakeholders. 

They also know what is expected from them individually and corporately. This is a process and a journey and will not happen overnight but we have taken the first step.

IT: What are your expectations from the affiliated unions and how can they help you in managing Fiji Rugby as CEO? 

MB: They are an important and essential stakeholder in FRU. I’d like all Unions to be very open with me and my management team and they’ll find at all times an open door and somebody who is willing to listen to their thoughts and ideas – as long as those ideas will help in moving Fiji Rugby forward. This is an area we have been tasked by the Board to focus on, a more effective and open working relationship with all unions. The Unions’ delegates appoint the FRU Board at its AGM who in turn appoints the CEO, so they should come to the SGM and AGM and address issues there rather than airing it elsewhere. There is a proper forum and they should utilize it. We are partners not adversaries. My door is always open.

IT: What would you like to achieve in the first 12 months of your term at Rugby House? 

MB: Finance I have covered. 

Internally, to improve on our processes and efficiency. Some parts of our operations are highly labor-intensive being heavily task and activity oriented whether it be rugby development, the high performance unit, gym centres and hosting of international tournaments (event management) to operations. 

Externally, we obviously are judged by our performance on the field of play – that’s the nature of the beast at Rugby House. In 2012 we play Scotland in June and England on 10 November in Twickenham – the home of rugby. I’d like to see the Flying Fijians make the ultimate statement by beating England at Twickenham. We have the ability to do it - all we need is the belief we can.

IT: On the international scene - are there some things that you would like to see happen more or better as far as overseas unions and commitments to Fiji Rugby are concerned? 

MB: We’ll take things one step at a time in terms of our international commitments as always these things are dictated by our financial standing and IRB scheduling. The 2012 Calendar of Events is stretched based on our domestic and international commitments. This business is built on winning and everyone involved with rugby understands this principle. Winning creates more opportunities with the IRB and sponsors.

IT: Are there areas that you would want to work on with the IRB to help Fiji Rugby grow better? 

MB: I know Fiji Rugby has over the years had a very good relationship with the IRB and that’s something I’d like to maintain and enhance. There are a number of areas we’d like to work with the IRB on for the betterment of Fiji Rugby and top of the list would be how we could produce better outcomes from our high performance unit. 

We are pleased that IRB is assisting with our National Head Coach Selection Panel by providing a technical expert in Mr Brian O’Shea. I wish to record FRU’s deep appreciation to Mr William Glenwright, IRB Oceania for facilitating Brian’s visit to Fiji. IRB is scheduled in Fiji February 2012 to conduct a review of the high performance unit so they are constantly reviewing and monitoring our operations.

IT: You have a lot of marketing experience and FRU needs some good marketing strategies to gain sponsorship and financial support. Is that one area that you will want to focus on? What are your personal thoughts on how we can improve marketing Fiji Rugby? 

MB: Fiji Rugby is one of the world’s most exciting brands and through our on field performances we need to leverage off that to ensure we maximize our sponsorship opportunities. Our ability to secure lucrative sponsorship deals is directly related to winning, simple as that. In order to maximize our brand we of course need to start performing on the field and in this regard are currently thankful to all our sponsors but in particular too Digicel, Nike, KooGa and BSP, the IRB and Government for their support of Fiji Rugby over the past 12 months. 

IT: How can the media help? 

MB: The media can help by ensuring integrity and impartiality in their reporting.

IT: What about the other stakeholders - fans, critics, sponsors - how can they help Fiji Rugby and your aims? 

MB: Honest opinion and criticism is important towards the overall development of Fiji Rugby so its vital fans and critics have their say. We have a great working and business relationship with all our major sponsors and I appreciate their continued support following RWC 2011.

IT: Any special message to the Fiji Rugby public? 

MB: To all our fans in Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, other Pacific Island countries, Asia, Middle East, Afghanistan, Germany, France, England, Scotland, Wales, Canada and USA – vinaka vakalevu for your support. My personal appeal to you is to have patience and give us a little time to rebuild. 

A Merry Christmas, and a Prosperous and Fantastic 2012, from everyone at the Fiji Rugby Union. 

Article courtesy of the Fiji Sun - www.fijisun.com.fj

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