Meet­ing agrees that only way for­ward is for clubs to be man­aged on

Busi­ness prin­ci­ples

CityPress - - Sport - HEN­DRIK CRONJÉ sports@city­

South African rugby is in fi­nan­cial trou­ble. Play­ers have be­come too ex­pen­sive due to the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate; sup­port­ers don’t have the money to take their fam­i­lies to matches on Satur­days any more; and pri­vati­sa­tion of unions seems to be the only de­sir­able so­lu­tion to guar­an­tee­ing that South African rugby re­mains a force in fu­ture.

Events in the board­rooms of the SA Rugby Union (Saru), where the pres­i­dents and chief ex­ec­u­tives of the 14 unions con­vened in Fran­schhoek in the Western Cape, have high­lighted these chal­lenges in red letters – unions must be man­aged on the busi­ness prin­ci­ples of pro­fes­sional French clubs like Toulon and Clermont where profit is the main ob­jec­tive – that is the only way for­ward.

An in­formed source told City Press’ sis­ter news­pa­per Rap­port that some unions were al­ready dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­ity of in­volv­ing over­seas busi­ness part­ners and maybe even selling a 50% or more slice in their clubs.

Due to in­creas­ing fi­nan­cial pres­sure, a fight over money is brew­ing in lo­cal rugby af­ter the meet­ing in Fran­schhoek and the fu­ture role and clout of unions like the Valke, Grif­fons, Bor­der, Boland and SWD are un­der the mi­cro­scope.

The Blue Bulls, Western Province, Sharks, Lions, Free State and Eastern Province have turned down the new dis­tri­bu­tion of in­come from broad­cast­ing rights and have asked the Saru board to re­think it.

Ac­cord­ing to the pro­posal that was dis­cussed at the meet­ing, big unions would each have re­ceived R25 mil­lion a year and the smaller ones, R15 mil­lion each.

But the so­lu­tion is not that sim­ple as unions like the Pu­mas, Gri­quas and Leop­ards have long since not seen them­selves as “small unions” any more.

Rap­port’s in­for­ma­tion sug­gests the next Saru meet­ing, likely to be held on Au­gust 11-12, will not head for a fight be­tween the “big ones” and “small ones”.

In Fran­schhoek, a sug­ges­tion by a “big one” that they meet on their own about the dis­tri­bu­tion of broad­cast rights was shot down by another “big one” who sug­gested that ev­ery­one should rather reach a joint de­ci­sion.

But there are fears that unions mak­ing no sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to SA rugby are hi­jack­ing com­pe­ti­tion struc­tures and in­come for their own gain. The weight of the vot­ing rights of the “small ones” is another long­stand­ing con­cern. Other sug­ges­tions that were made in Fran­schhoek in­clude:

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