In a move that could have important ramifications for American rugby, the IRB Council has approved the application from the American Samoa Rugby Football Union (ASRFU) to become a full member after it successfully fulfilled the criteria to be upgraded from associate membership.
The Union, which is part of the Federation of Oceania Rugby Unions (FORU), has 18 affiliated clubs and runs senior men’s, senior women’s and junior competitions under its auspices.
IRB Council was in agreement with an IRB Executive Committee recommendation to approve the application subject to a review being conducted within 24 months to ascertain ASRFU’s continued progression to make sure the Union is worthy of retaining that new status.
“The IRB is delighted to welcome American Samoa as the latest Full Member,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“The ASRFU is a structured organisation that has demonstrated strong governance principles and a robust administration. It has demonstrated a determination to grow the Game within the country. The IRB is committed to developing Rugby around the world and this is yet another step along that path,” said Lapasset.
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States and a meeting took place at the 10th IRB General Assembly in 2011 with the IRB, ASRFU and USA Rugby all being represented with matters of eligibility being set. ASRFU is recognised by the American Samoa National Olympic Committee.
American Samoan athletes are recognized as US nationals, and can play for the USA. It's not clear, then, how this designation affects the USA national team structure. But it is clear this move will give more American Samoa players opportunities to play international rugby.
The IRB Council also approved an application from the United Arab Emirates Rugby Association (UAERA) for Associate Membership. The Union had previously become an associate member of the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU) in 2009 and a full member in 2011. The Union was created with a view to replacing the Arabian Gulf RFU, which ceased to be a member of the IRB on December 31, 2011, so that Rugby in the Region would continue to grow and develop within antonomous states. UAERA is recognised by its National Olympic Committee.
Furthermore, the IRB Council has approved a recommendation from IRB Executive Committee that UAERA be approved as a Full Member of the IRB within 12 months subject to positive progress and reports from ARFU and the IRB’s regional staff.
As an active Union, UAERA fully meets the IRB membership criteria for Associate Membership and has been a driving force behind rapid participation increased within the country.
It is a structured organisation with full-time administrators. It has 1,300 adult registered players and a further 4,600 youth players. UAERA runs a seven-team annual domestic 15-a-side premiership league and an eight-team conference competition. The national 15-a-side team played in the HSBC Asian 5 Nations Top 5 tournament finishing third in 2011 and the Union continues to host successful tournaments.
This decision is subject to a review being conducted within 24 months of the award of full member status to confirm that the Union has progressed and is worthy of retaining that status. Following these admissions, the IRB is now made up of 98 Full Members and 20 Associate Members.