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