The Fiji Rugby Union (FRU) has stood down its chairman from the World Rugby council amid accusations of homophobia and discrimination.
Francis Kean, who was convicted of manslaughter in 2007, is under investigation by World Rugby after the Sunday Times revealed the claims.
His bid for the World Rugby executive committee has also been withdrawn.
The FRU is backing Sir Bill Beaumont’s bid for re-election as chairman of World Rugby.
World Rugby said it was “in the best interests of the sport” for Kean to stand down.
“World Rugby takes all allegations of behaviour that is not in keeping with the sport’s strong and inclusive values and bye-laws extremely seriously,” it said in a statement.
“While it is important to stress that any allegations must be validated, following dialogue with World Rugby, the Fiji Rugby Union recognises the seriousness of the allegations made and the need for them to be fully investigated.”
The latest controversy surrounding Kean has threatened to disrupt Beaumont’s campaign.
The Fiji union seconded the former England captain’s nomination, while Kean has also been sitting on the World Rugby council since May 2019.
However, World Rugby says that Beaumont is supported by the Fiji union as a whole, rather than any individual, and Beaumont is said to have moved quickly in the last few days to ensure the FRU acted appropriately.
It is understood conversations have taken place between World Rugby representatives and Fiji’s Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, who is Kean’s brother-in-law, with the allegations amounting to a breach of the council member code of conduct.
While the fact Kean was able to assume a position of power on the council in the first place is a matter of embarrassment for the game, Beaumont has pledged a full governance review, including a ‘fit and proper persons’ test, if he was to be re-elected.
Beaumont is running against Argentina great and current vice-chairman Agustin Pichot, with the voting opening next week before the final decision is ratified on May 12.
Fiji chief executive John O’Connor will now sit on the World Rugby council in Kean’s place.
However, with Kean out of the running to continue on World Rugby’s executive board, the seven existing candidates, including Welsh Rugby Union chairman Gareth Davies, will be elected unopposed.