WP stand firm on stadium boycott

THE Western Province Rugby Football Union has suspended talks with the City of Cape Town to move the home of local rugby from Newlands to the Cape Town Stadium.

This was over a “breach of confidentiality” by the city, but the union (WPRFU) would not elaborate on what went wrong.

The Cape Town stadium. Credit: AFP

Responding to a letter sent by the WPRFU on Tuesday, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille wrote to Theuns Roodman, its chief executive.

She also sent the letter to the media, saying talks had been suspended over a “breach of confidentiality” – which the city has asked for proof of.

WPRFU president Tobie Titus said: “That letter is confidential, it’s between us and the city and we are not going to comment. If the mayor wants to make her letter public, that is her prerogative, but we regard it as confidential.

“We confirm that we suspended the talks, but I don’t want to delve into it too much and we will speak to the council again about it at some stage.”

The city has been in talks with the union for months about a possible move to the Cape Town Stadium. Last week the Cape Times reported that the city would have had to spend R120 million to lure the union to the venue as it would have to add more hospitality suites, among other things.

De Lille also explained how the city negotiated with English squad Saracens to contest the Heineken Cup at the Cape Town Stadium.

The WPRFU announced on Tuesday that the Heineken game between Saracens and French squad Biarritz, on January 14, should be played at the Newlands Stadium, and not at the Cape Town Stadium, where the club applied to play.

Mayoral committee member for tourism, marketing and events Grant Pascoe said last week that the Heineken match would be played at the Cape Town Stadium.

In De Lille’s letter, she said the Cape Town Stadium was approached by Saracens to host the match.

“The city entered into negotiations with Edward Griffiths, the CEO of Saracens, to assess the viability of different commercial models that will underpin the hosting of the match at the stadium.

“Before concluding a firm offer, the city requested confirmation that the International Rugby Board (IRB) and the South African rugby authorities had endorsed the match,” De Lille said.

Griffiths gave confirmation in letters from the IRB and the South African Rugby Union (Saru) that they sanctioned the match. The city was informed that Saracens chose the Cape Town Stadium, and a public announcement to that effect was made, De Lille said.

It is believed that the “breach of confidentiality” that WPRFU referred to is related to the announcement by Pascoe before the union made a decision on the venue.

De Lille said: “The city is aware that Saracens had engaged with your union on the hosting of this match. It has also come to our attention that Rob Wagner, from your commercial wing, was informed of the outcome of the Saracens decision to host the match at the Cape Town Stadium.”

Saru spokesman Andy Colquhoun said they had given permission for the match to be played in Cape Town but told Saracens it was on condition that the WPRFU approved the venue.

De Lille said it was a business and destination marketing decision to host Saracens.

“At no stage did we intend to dishonour our ongoing and amicable discussions with you (WPRFU) by entering into a commercially viable agreement with Saracens,” De Lille said.

The city has asked to speak to the management of the WPRFU to lift the suspension and restart talks.

“I am aware that the Saracens decision may have had unintended consequences (negative reactions from your stakeholders). This was never our intention. Nor was it an attempt to pre-empt any decision of a move of Western Province Rugby to the Cape Town Stadium,” she said.

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