By JACK AMI
THE original owners of Port Moresby Vipers, Port Moresby Rugby League are determined to reclaim ownership of the Digicel Cup franchise.
According to Port Moresby Rugby League board chairman Dr James Naipao, the Vipers rightful owners are the PRL having ushered the inter-city team into existence in 1990.
“There are no ifs and buts, we are taking over the franchise and we will run it professionally with the structures in place to benefit the players, team management and all the stake holders involved,” Naipao said.
The former Kumul said it was the right time for the PRL to regain control of the Vipers because they had the backing of the National Football Stadium as well as other stakeholders who were confident in their ability to manage the semi-professional club.
But City Pharmacy Limited, the Vipers naming rights sponsor through their Stop N Shop brand, are adamant they do not have direct control over the Vipers in terms of player selections and team management.
CPL managing director Sudhir Guru, who is also the chairman of the PNG NRL, the body which runs the Digicel Cup competition, said he had not received any notice in writing from the PRL board.
He iterated that the main sponsor of the Vipers was the National Capital District Commission.
Guru said he had met with the PRL board before the Digicel Cup season and had an understanding with them however the admitted they had not met since allowing the situation to reach this stage.
Naipao said the current management had allowed the club to slide into irrelevance on the national scene with the former champions languishing in second last position on the 2016 standings.
He said the club had struggled to be a force over the last two seasons, in fact after they had won the title in 2013.
Chairman Naipao, deputies Wari Varage, Manu Lofena, treasurer Jack Kedea and director Benjamin Kaupa in a press conference yesterday at the NFS that they were now ready to take over the Vipers which was rightfully the product of the PRL.
“We are not playing politics and we don’t want politics to interfere in rugby league or sports as it defeats the purpose of competition and development of talent,” Naipao said.
“This board is confident that it has the support of the clubs and the fans as well as the corporate sector, some of whom have indicated their backing for the 2017 season, to form a new board to take the team forward,” Naipao said.
Naipao promised that while the majority (70 per cent) of the Vipers would be recruited from the PRL, he said PNGRFL-affiliated competitions such as the Port Moresby Suburban League, POM South, Motu Koita and Central, would also be looked at to provide players for the capital city franchise.
He said the PRL was established in 1949 and it was the premier league in the country many of its players were playing for almost all the franchises involved in the Digicel Cup.
“We’re not impressed with the performance of the Vipers this season, their selections, management and board which has not involved the PRL management even after we were promised that two of our members would be part of the Vipers board.
Varage said selections needed to be done on merit and by an independent body and not handpicked as done for two seasons. He added that they also needed to do away with aging players (over 30) to make way for the next generation.
He said team officials would also be appointed with the proviso that they be certified as coaches, trainers and managers as well as being registered to a PRL club.
Varage thanked NCD District Governor Powes Parkop, NCDC and City Pharmacy for backing the Vipers.
Lofena added that the PRL board would meet the Vipers playing group as well as PRL clubs and the two teams taking part in the Southern Zone Trials to advise them of their plans for the franchise in 2017.
By JACK AMI