Fiji Rugby Union chairman Francis Kean has stepped down from his position – forfeiting his nomination for the World Rugby executive committee – amid accusations of homophobia and racism.
The move also means Kean, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2007, is no longer a member of the World Rugby Council.
An exposé in Britain’s Sunday Times revealed that Kean had been accused of ‘rampant homophobia’, with the newspaper saying they had heard a recording of him making offensive remarks when he was in charge of the Fijian prison service.
The Fiji Rugby Union has seconded Bill Beaumont’s bid to serve a second four-year term as World Rugby chairman, with the former England captain being opposed by Argentina great Agustin Pichot.
World Rugby on Monday launched an investigation into the allegations against Kean and on Tuesday acknowledged the steps taken by the FRU.
‘World Rugby takes all allegations of behaviour that is not in keeping with the sport’s strong and inclusive values and by-laws extremely seriously,’ it said in a statement.
The global governing body said it was important for the allegations to be fully investigated, but added: ‘It is in the best interests of the sport that Mr Kean steps down from the Council and his Executive Committee candidature be withdrawn.’
Kean had come under further pressure on Tuesday when a Pacific players’ group made fresh allegations against him.
Former Samoa captain Dan Leo, chief executive of Pacific Rugby Players Welfare – an independent non-profit organisation that supports professional and semi-professional players of Pacific Island heritage – wrote a scathing open letter that strongly criticised Kean and his candidacy for the executive committee.
‘You may have thought as Pacific Islanders, we would fall in line in support of Kean. But it is extraordinary to anyone involved in the game in the Pacific that Kean is even on the ballot,’ wrote Leo.
In his hard-hitting letter, Leo said Kean, a brother-in-law of Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, made several claims, including that he travels on a diplomatic passport that carries different names from those on the passport he held when convicted.
Kean’s place on the World Rugby Council will be filled by Fijian union CEO John O’Connor.
World Rugby has stressed Beaumont’s nomination came from the Fiji Rugby Union, rather than from the chairman individually, with council places similarly awarded to national unions not individuals.
Fijian support for Beaumont is seen as a counter-balance to Pichot, who is believed to have strong support among other second-tier nations.
Photo: World Rugby