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Opinion

Time for rugby diplomacy and new stadiums in the Pacific

Roar Rookie
26th September, 2021
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Roar Rookie
26th September, 2021
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After watching the recent weekend of rugby in Townsville’s new stadium I could not help think of the financial benefits that have come to the community there.

It made me think about how new stadium projects in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa would benefit the communities in those countries when they become part of the new Super Rugby Pacific tournament starting next year.

Fiji’s national stadium is 70 years old and the stadium only has seats for 4,000 people. In Tonga, the Teufaiva Sport Stadium can seat 7,000 people, and Apia Park in Samoa underwent an upgrade and seats 10,000 people. Yet none would be considered in a high stadium category.

Townsville’s population is 150,000 yet Fiji’s population is about 900,000, and Tonga and Samoa are populated by 100,000 and 200,000 people respectively.

Unlike Townsville, they are rugby union mad and are tourist destinations with tourism making up 20-30 percent of their GDP.

So who funds this? Well the $40 million upgrade in Apia was supported by the Chinese government. Indeed much of the Pacific has seen a significant increase in Chinese government supported infrastructure projects as part of China’s soft power diplomacy in the region over the last two decades.

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The stadium in Townsville cost $250 million and the CBUS stadium in the Gold Coast cost $160 million – the latter still seating over 25,000 people.

I think it is in the interests of Australia and New Zealand, as well as the IRU, and other nations in the region to support Fiji, Tonga and Samoa and build world class stadiums.

This will lift their economies coming out of the pandemic and drive more tourism as more rugby supporters would travel to watch rugby – not just Super Rugby but the international sevens tournament which is currently played in the great rugby supporting cities of Dubai, Singapore and Colorado…

Look I am all for development and fun, and I actually live in Singapore with a home in Townsville, but we need to help the Pacific nations that have helped the game become what it is today, and what it will become in the future.

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