Suva - The cash-strapped Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) has admitted it is struggling to pay the salary of high-profile Sevens coach Ben Ryan, forcing him to work voluntarily for three months.
The Englishman's appointment was announced with much fanfare in September, when he was charged with improving the skillful but inconsistent Islanders ahead of Sevens' Olympic debut in 2016.
However, Ryan told Fiji's One News this week that "not a penny" of his salary had been paid and he was living off his savings, including covering the cost of flights home to see his family over the festive season.
FRU acting chief executive Berlin Kafoa confirmed the situation but said Ryan had agreed not to be paid for the first three months of his tenure after officially taking the reins at the beginning of October.
"Ryan volunteered for three months after being appointed as national Sevens coach due to the financial situation of the FRU," Kafoa said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
He also revealed the FRU had still not secured funding to cover Ryan's salary for the current year.
"The FRU has applied to the Fiji Sports Commission for a grant based on the 2014 budget allocation which will be used for Ryan's salary," he said. "We are still waiting for the Fiji Sports Commission to respond to our application."
Kafoa added: "We as a nation should applaud a foreign individual who is willing to make personal sacrifices for the love of rugby in Fiji."
The FRU posted a FJ$600 000 ($320 000) loss in 2012 and chairperson Filimone Waqabaca vowed to sort out its finances when he took up the post last year.
The union struggles for sponsorship revenue in a market of just 900 000 people and is heavily reliant on development grants from the International Rugby Board (IRB).
Ryan finished a successful stint with the England Sevens team last year.
Under his tutelage, they won four titles on the world Sevens tour and reached the final of the World Cup for the first time last year in Moscow, where they lost 33-0 to New Zealand.