Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018

Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018: Fiji chief Francis Kean shut out of San Francisco with US visa denied ‘over manslaughter conviction’

Francis Kean, chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union, is denied a US visa for this weekend’s San Francisco tournament, with Fijian prime minister ‘angry’

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 July, 2018, 2:18pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 July, 2018, 10:19am

The chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union, Francis Kean, was reportedly refused a visa to enter the United States to watch his team at the Rugby World Cup Sevens because of a previous manslaughter conviction.

The 52-year-old former navy commander was unable to join the thousands at the AT&T Park in San Francisco – home of baseball’s Giants – who watched Olympic champions Fiji’s 35-10 victory over Japan in their opening round of 16 match.

According to rebel Fijian blogger Shailendra G Raju, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is furious his brother-in-law was denied entry into the US.

“Angry PM wanted to know why US denied visa to FRU chairman … for the 7s World Cup. He has been advised that it is due to the 2007 manslaughter conviction of Francis Kean,” wrote Raju.

When approached for comment, World Rugby referred any inquiries to the Fiji Rugby Union, which has yet to respond.

In January 2006, Kean was charged with the murder of John Whippy, a salesman who had just married Ateca Bainimarama, the daughter of the prime minister.

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The charge was later reduced to manslaughter and in October 2007, after pleading guilty, Kean was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He served one week of his sentence.

It is not the first time Kean has been stopped from travelling because of his conviction. He was also refused a visa by the United Kingdom government to attend the 2015 Rugby World Cup 15s tournament.

In 2011, the New Zealand government said it would refuse to grant a visa for Frank Bainimarama because the Fijian military government was under sanctions and the prime minister was unelected.

Former Fijian sevens coach Ben Ryan mentions Kean in his recently released book, Sevens Heaven: The Beautiful Chaos of Fiji’s Olympic Dream, about his time in Fiji leading up to and including their Olympic triumph in Rio in 2016.

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Ryan writes about how Kean tried to force two rugby players into the Englishman’s squad.

“One morning Kean came to the gym in Suva where I was training the boys … A soldier on either side of him, both in uniform. Ben, these two men are in your next training squad. I knew I could not face him down but that I could not step back either. OK, they can train with us today. Then I will send them home, knowing that the feedback would arrive … that they were not good enough.

“It was a shot across the bows from Kean: I have this power. A few months later, it was announced that he was going to be made chairman of the Fiji Rugby Union. At the AGM, a loophole had been discovered – you can only vote for the chairman if you have brought your region’s full accounts for the year, and hey! Only Suva have theirs, so only Suva can vote, and Suva seems to have voted for their own chairman.

Broken marriage, friendships lost and forged and Olympic glory: Ben Ryan talks about the ‘Beautiful Chaos’ of Fijian rugby – Part 1

“A shot back from me. An email to World Rugby: one of your national unions is about to appoint a chairman who has served time for manslaughter. This is the man who you’ll be paying to fly over for the England vs Fiji match, where he’ll have the best seats at Twickenham and a five-star hotel that you will also be paying for. He’ll be the man you deal with for the next four years whenever you deal with rugby in Fiji. The reply from World Rugby: this is an internal matter.

“Kean couldn’t go in the end, a travel ban still in place from his conviction. He sent two board members instead.”

Half a year without pay, appointing a ‘troublemaker’ and the Hong Kong Sevens: Ben Ryan on his Fiji odyssey – Part 2