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PNG rugby league rift overshadows the game

THE RELEASE OF $4 million of Australian taxpayer funding to the PNG Rugby Football League is on indefinite hold while a bitter power struggle for leadership of the game persists.

The game’s administration in Port Moresby has been crippled by a dispute between rival factions that has moved between boardroom and courtroom and back again.

Uncertainty over the future stewardship of the PNGRFL has prompted AusAID, a partner in the lucrative package to assist PNG league, to continue to delay delivery of the funding 14 months after it was allocated and announced by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

There are hopes that the year-long dispute between former chairman Albert Veratau and PNG customs commissioner Gary Juffa will be resolved at the PNGRFL's annual general meeting this month. If not, the freeze in funding - to be directed towards school and junior rugby league - may continue.

An AusAID spokeswoman confirmed the package of $4 million over four years had been held up since last December.

''A stable administration will be critical to the partnership achieving its rugby league and social development outcomes,'' she said.

''The PNGRFL's internal leadership dispute is a matter for them, and not a matter for the Australian government.

''The Australian partners await the outcome of the PNGRFL board election before determining the next steps in progressing Australian assistance.''

The PNGRFL has been in turmoil since last November when Veratau challenged Juffa's election as chairman as unconstitutional in the PNG National Court.

The in-fighting led Colin Love, the ARL and Rugby League International Federation chairman, to convene talks between the rival parties in July, with Veratau agreeing to drop legal action while an interim chairman was installed until the AGM. But the truce has done little to cool tensions.

Ultimately it will be the responsibility of the ARL to be accountable for the funding - intended to pay for equipment, infrastructure and insurance at the grassroots level - reaching its desired destination, if and when its delivery is given the green light.

Source: ‘Australian money to sit on sideline until PNG power struggle is tackled’ by Chris Barrett, Brisbane Times, 29 October 2010


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