Durban - The Sharks’ liquor licence woes have now reached beyond their outer field boundary and are starting to bite.
The lack of hospitality licences has resulted in big-spending up-country fans not travelling to Durban for rugby matches at Kings Park.
Even the South African Rugby Union (Saru) has veered to the Moses Mabhida Stadium to entertain some guests at this weekend’s Tests between Scotland and Samoa and South Africa and Italy.
The Sharks told their suite-holders last month that hospitality would no longer be allowed in private suites as the KZN Liquor Board viewed the expensive hospitality tickets as constituting the sale of alcohol, and not in line with licences of the suites.
Last week, an email from the office of Sharks chief executive Brian van Zyl to a potential hospitality client said the only hospitality that could legally be provided inside the stadium was via The Sharks (Pty) Ltd, One Stop Hospitality or Coyote Super Suite.
SA Rugby, although responsible for hosting its guests in its own suites, also needed to “operate within the legal requirements of the liquor licence”, according to the email.
Without a liquor licence, hospitality tickets can only include the match ticket and meals.
SA Rugby spokesman Andy Colquhoun said Saru’s commercial partners were being hosted at Moses Mabhida because of a “lack of availability of an appropriate facility” at Kings Park.
He noted that Saru had sought licensed premises to provide an “appropriate level of hospitality for our guests”.
According to the Sharks, it was only Saru’s “overflow guests” who were being hosted across the road, as their major sponsors, officials and players would be hosted in the Sharks’ own hospitality suites.
However, four days ago, the Sharks were still advertising for businesses to hire their Tekweni Lounge to entertain clients, implying that space was still available at Kings Park, although it was not licensed.
On Tuesday, one of the Sharks’ biggest official hospitality providers, Megapro, was still in the dark as to what was to become of the 200 tickets it had already sold at R3 299 each for the double-header Test on Saturday.
Chief executive John McCarthy said he was expecting a letter from the Sharks’ attorney informing him of the situation.
Another Joburg hospitality provider said the lack of liquor licences was affecting the decades-long trade of bringing fans - who are able to spend thousands of rand on hospitality tickets - to Durban for big matches. The clampdown on fans bringing alcohol to the outer fields had already dulled the world-renowned Kings Park atmosphere and deterred up-country fans, the provider said.
The Sharks have been trying to legalise their operations in accordance with the Liquor Act, but are not being given much leeway by the Liquor Board.
At the beginning of last month they appealed to the board for an extension of trading hours, which was denied.
The board’s response was that “this cannot be approved as there is no justification for the proposed extension”.
As The Mercury has not seen the Sharks’ letter, it is not known how much of an extension was requested.
The Liquor Board also denied a Sharks request pertaining to the sale of liquor in hospitality suites, saying: “This part of the request sounds like you intend to bring under the stadium licence hospitality suites that are currently not licensed, and such an arrangement borders on an action tantamount to acting in fraud of the law.”