World Rugby is investigating allegations of homophobia against a leading figure in the Fiji Rugby Union (FRU), which supported Sir Bill Beaumont’s bid for re-election as chairman of the global governing body.
The Sunday Times reported it had heard a recording of FRU chairman Francis Kean, while he was in charge of the Fiji prison service, in which the paper alleged homophobic language was used.
“World Rugby notes allegations in the UK Sunday Times about Fiji Rugby Union Chairman Ratu Vilikesa Bulewa Francis Kean and takes them extremely seriously,” a statement from World Rugby said.
“Rugby is a sport built on strong and inclusive values and World Rugby does not in any way condone any abusive or discriminatory behaviour, as outlined within its bye-laws.
“World Rugby is currently in dialogue with the Fiji Rugby Union about the nature of the allegations and it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.”
Beaumont and former Argentina scrum-half Agustin Pichot are the contenders for the position of World Rugby chairman for the next four years in elections due to be held next month.
Beaumont, the current incumbent, had his bid to be retained endorsed by the French Rugby Federation (FFF), which was seconded by the FRU – the organisation rather than individually by its chairman.
Kean, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2007, is trying to secure a seat on the World Rugby Executive Committee but the allegations against him mean he is under pressure to withdraw from the race.
Kean currently sits on the World Rugby council as a representative of Fiji.
World Rugby says a place on its council is awarded to a union and not an individual, with Fiji meeting the relevant criteria under the revised governance process launched in November 2015.