Wellington - Samoan rugby has announced a major sponsorship deal, including a promised windfall for success at next year's Rugby World Cup, which it says will help it retain top players.
The total value of the deal with the Australian-based Cromwell Property Group is undisclosed but will include a payment of $1 million if Samoa wins the World Cup, $500 000 if it reaches the final and $250 000 for a semi-final appearance.
Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who is also chairperson of the Samoa Rugby Union, said "money has always been a problem for all the Pacific Island teams" and the sponsorship would help relieve financial concerns.
He said "winning the World Cup is not a fantasy" and players may now choose to play for Samoa rather than other countries.
"We are entering an exciting, dynamic era for Samoan rugby," Tuilaepa said. "With initiatives like this sponsorship and the All Blacks test in Apia (next year), we are determined to put Samoa where it belongs - in the top ranks of world rugby and with a strong financial base to fund our development.
Tuilaepa said Samoa had to seek substantial private sponsorship to fund its operations because of the current system of revenue sharing, which is a hangover from the amateur game.
Under the present system, nations which host test matches retain all revenues from those games and are not required to share revenue with visiting teams.
Tuilaepa said those revenues should be shared "50-50" and, if that was so, a single end of year tour by Samoa to Britain and Europe would likely yield enough to fund Samoan rugby for the next two years.
Samoa was especially disadvantaged by the current system, he said, because it was highly unlikely the teams it played against on end of year tours would ever make reciprocal tours to the Pacific.
Tuilaepa also criticized the "lop-sided" system of representation which allowed foundation nations two seats on the International Rugby Board but Samoa only one under the banner of Oceania.
"I don't know of any organization that is so unfairly represented," he said. "World rugby is badly managed."