Minister for Employment, Productivity & Industrial Relations and Youth & Sports Hon. Parveen Kumar has reaffirmed the Fijian Government’s commitment to a clean sporting industry, with an Anti-Doping and Sports and Physical Activity Policy underway. Minister Bala said that these would be completed by mid-2019.

“As a nation we believe strongly in sports partnerships,” he said while opening the Council of Europe’s inaugural Pacific seminar on “Keep Crime Out Of Sports” (KCOSS +) in Nadi.

“There are many types of manipulations that exist in various sports and many types of criminals who take advantage. The one we hear most about is match-fixing; this is what happens on the field of play.”

The Ministry of Youth and Sports and Fiji National Sports Commission are putting in place a new National Sports Policy and incorporating several new policies to protect Fijian athletes and sports; a Drug Free Sports Act, Safety in Sports Policy, Protection of the Athlete Policy, Child Protection Policy and Sports Governance Code.

Minister Kumar said other forms of manipulation included the falsification of age to participate in competitions, manipulating transfers between clubs to have a certain type of team and threatening athletes to lose a game or creating a penalty for an undue financial gain.

Commission Chairman, Peter Mazey noted the necessity of training more top level coaches, have translated rule books and understanding and ensuring that match fixing and crime in sports does not occur.

He said alongside the new Acts and policies, they would ensure all sports training and accreditation is accepted by and monitored by the Fiji Higher Education Commission.

“We are setting up an independent disciplinary body for sports and a whistle-blower’s policy. We have realized that we don’t just put in place policies but that we establish processes and procedures and regulations to facilitate each policy. We must give them teeth so any unwanted or illegal practice is taken to task and addressed,” Mr Mazey said.

Minister Kumar noted that professional sports people, mainly through rugby unions, have become major contributors to the national economy by way of remittances.

“A report by Kawamasu and Molar (2014) stated that Fijian athletes remitted around $18.4 million per annum. This is equivalent to 11 percent of the country’s total remittances within a year,” he cited.

“Stewart Withers, Richardson and Sewabu (2014) in a study found Pacific athletes sent an estimate NZ$21.7 million per year which is remittances from New Zealand alone.

He said they anticipated a greater proportion of women among Fiji’s professional sporting exports. Over the past seven years, the Fijian Government has increased the sporting budget from $400,000 annually to over $20 million.