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No Fijian rugby players arrested yet!

The Rugby League World Cup has not started but the drama in England already has. Rugby Football League chief executive Ralph Rimmer was forced to make a grovelling apology to the Fijian squad after video footage emerged of him mocking them at an awards dinner.

It was a comedic attempt that many have seen as a racist rant. Rimmer was caught on camera discussing the upcoming World Cup in England, when he questioned if any Fijian player “has been arrested yet?”

He made the remarks in front of colleagues, club executives, players and guests while on stage hosting the RFL’s annual awards night at Headingley on Monday.

RFL chief executive officer Ralph Rimmer. Picture International Rugby League
RFL chief executive officer Ralph Rimmer. Picture: International Rugby League

“Fiji have already arrived. We don’t think anybody has been arrested yet, do we? No, we’re alright, so we’re going pretty well then,” was the actual remark that was made.

Rimmer was attempting to refer to incidents of bad behaviour that have taken place within international squads prior to previous World Cups.

The Fiji National Rugby League has opted not to comment in the matter as no offence was taken. Prior to Fiji having players in professional outfits, the team was infamous for such incidents, which former players have acknowledged.

Former Fiji rugby league player Maika Vunivere said there was a time when the players were plucked from clubs in Fiji and taken to the world stage for the first time. He said for some of these players this would have been their first trip abroad.

The Fiji Bati making a public appearance at the RLWC trophjy tour in England. Picture FNRL
The Fiji Bati making a public appearance at the RLWC trophy tour in England. Picture: FNRL

“But the times have changed. We have many players who are part of professional outfits and what used to happen 20 – 25 years ago does not happen,” he said.

“I personally take offence because we have improved on and off the field.”

Rimmer has denied being racist and admitted his comments were ill-judged – and telephoned members of the Fijian management team to apologise.

“I apologise unreservedly for a throwaway remark, which I regretted as soon as I made it,” Rimmer told media in London.

“There was no intention to malign the Fiji squad – in fact the context of the remark was my excitement that their arrival in the country marked the imminence of the World Cup competition, to which they have contributed so significantly and positively since 1995, on and off the field.”

The Fijian team is unmoved by the controversy and coach Joe Rabele said no harm was done and the Fiji Bati are focusing on the games rather than something blown out of proportion by the media.

Rimmer is stepping down at the end of the year as RFL boss after accusations of poor performance at the helm of English rugby league.

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