12 October, 2017. Samoa – Leuluaialii Theresa Passi says that leading up to her dismissal, staff within the Samoa Rugby Union jostled to push and shove each other aside in pursuit of their own self interest, working in groups she referred to as “factions”. She believes that this contributed to her demise of being released by the Samoa Rugby Union this week.
Responding to questions from Samoa Planet, Leuluaialii said, “factional jostlings for preferred personnel ensued in the last 2 to 3 weeks” and added that “an investigative journalist will have a field day”.
Contrary to the Samoa Rugby Union media release which states that Ms Theresa Passi had “stepped down from the role”, the former Samoa Sevens Manager clarified this in a statement to Samoa Planet.
“My last day was last Friday after being given a 1 week notice. I am gathering my wits after giving my all to meet the requirements of the Head Coach, Sir Gordon.”
Since taking up the role in July, Leuluaialii who has not ruled out legal action against the SRU, says that the demands placed on her included the “implementation of a nutrition program for the local boys” where the SRU expected that she would cook and serve their breakfast.
According to Leuluaialii, “This required early rises at 4.30am to access my home internet, getting to the High Performance Unit to cook breakfast, serve breakfast, arrange ice for training, book facilities for training, shop for groceries etc.”
Ms Passi spoke about the lack of resources available to her such as internet connectivity and listed things she helped to secure such as a fridge, freezer, cooking utensils and a water cooler which she adds, “thanks dear Fatima of Le Vai”.
“I would shop for groceries with my own money and then seek reimbursement afterwards”.
Leuluaialii says that she had given her 100% to action the usual team manager roles and responsibilities including the necessary preparations and travel arrangements for the upcoming World Rugby Sevens Circuit.
“I had an exhausting week for the trials – 4 airport pickups of overseas trialists from airport, and return drop offs at ungodly hours, arranging refs & touch judges, red cross, physio, drinking ice, bath ice, bfast, lunches, nius, ripe bananas, transport, daily washing of one set of practice jerseys … leading to final selection of 2 squads…with costs all funded by my partner.”
“Planning for the Manu Samoa Sevens overseas circuit I was already linking up with host Unions,.. Silicon Valley, Dubai, Capetown,..with no access to internet.”
“I was then called in to a supposed review of the trial week, only to be told at the meeting that the Union preferred a more experienced manager. “
Three months ago the Samoa Rugby Union announced their decision to appoint Leuluaialii to the position of Team Manager for the Samoa Sevens, following a dismal season under Sir Gordon Tietjens where the national side finished at an all-time lowest world ranking of 13th place.
At the time, Sir Gordon Tietjens stated that he was “adamant” Ms Passi was the right woman for the job. “The appointment of a female as part of team management is not new in the rugby arena. We look forward to her supporting the team achieving its objectives and goals in the upcoming HSBC 7’s series”.
Ms Passi has not been given the opportunity to participate in the circuit with the SRUs sudden decision announced this week, to have her immediately replaced by Development Coordinator Shalom Senara.
Leuluaialii says, “I will talk to my legal friends,” for advice on the way she has been treated.
The SRU is currently facing legal action for breach of contract by former Manu Samoa Sevens Coach Damien McGrath, who has since moved to coach Canada through an exceptional 2016-17 season, finishing 8th in the world series standings.
Samoa Planet has been given leaked SRU meeting documents that confirms the decision was based on the recommendations and concerns of Sir Gordon Tietjens. The report dated 02 Oct 2017 reads, “Issues were raised by Sir Gordon re the appointed manager Theresa Passi and whether she would be competent enough during the season”.
It goes on to say that “the replacement manager put forward by Sir Gordon was Shalom Senara”.
Ms Passi says that conditions within the Samoa Rugby Union are not ideal for women.
“I do feel for the women working for the SRU. A woman can do the job subject to having a management team that practices what the organisation aspires to do.”
“I am at peace with myself knowing I gave it 100% (and funds lol).”
The CEO of SRU Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai says the accusations are not true, “to express any jostling within to change managers is fabricated hearsay.”
He clarified the decision to hire Ms Passi, “SRU went through the process to identify the type of person which would alleviate recent issues as noted in the 7’s program. Theresa was one of the candidates interviewed for the role and successfully got the job. Sir GT at the time expressed his wish to bring someone totally fresh and outside of the Union and not necessarily had worked in a rugby environment. Ultimately Theresa was recommended and ultimately Sir GT’s call which was totally supported by SRU”.
The CEO added that, “Theresa was under contract with a 3 months review. The decision to replace her was not a reflection of her work since she started with SRU. Theresa came on-board and had done great work with the players and had initiated nutritional meals for the players and provided daily support to the Coaches of the programme. Whilst a lot was implemented under a difficult environment where resources and decisions are at most times under financial strain, Theresa tried at best to cope and keep up with the demands and expectations of a demanding programme as the 7’s.”
According to Faleomavaega, “after consulting with Sir Gordon, Theresa regrettably still had a lot to learn and she acknowledged this. We value her contribution and have not totally ruled her out in our other Team management to up-skill and gain more experience”.
In her final words, Leuluaialii wished the Manu Samoa Sevens team well.
“We have an MS7s Team that is fit and well conditioned to do well under Sir G. I wish my replacement well and of course our loyal & dedicated Samoan boys. GO MS7s! Leulua’iali’i Theresa Passi.”