Whatever the merits of Paul Treu’s proposed new appointment within Western Province and Stormers rugby, the manner in which it has played out in the last week in the media has been disturbing. The lack of respect also shown within Western Province Rugby to its newly elected president Zelt Marais has been disgraceful.
Several opinion pieces in the media have been presented as fact in relation to a boardroom battle between the president and the professional arm. Marais has referred to the Western Province Rugby Union constitution, in terms of his powers.
The constitution has been in place since rugby’s evolution from an amateur game to professionalism in 1996. It isn’t so much a case of Marais wanting the amateur arm to run WP Rugby, but a reinforcement that WP Rugby, in its totality, is governed by the merits contained within the constitution.
WP – and by extension the Stormers – is owned by the clubs that make up WP Rugby. The business division within WP Rugby has been responsible for the financial well-being of WP Rugby – a well-being that has for some time not been doing particularly well.
Expenditure and costs have increased, revenue has decreased and the net worth is out of kilter with a successful business because there is no net worth.
Marais, pre-election, emphasised the need for greater fiscal scrutiny within the Western Province business leadership. His promise was that there would be accountability from those employed to run a successful business within WP Rugby.
He said there would be the necessary audits done and that there would be transparency. Marais inherited a mess from outgoing president Thelo Wakefield.
He also met with immediate resistance from the employed leadership when he started asking questions. It is why he has been so forceful in reminding them that he, as president, has every right to ask the questions and to use the constitution to find a resolution to the obvious problems.
Marais, on the eve of the presidential elections last year, said there would be salary cuts, adjustments and checks and balances in place when it came to performance. He was not referring to the players.
His focus was the leadership, from the chief executive to the director of rugby, to the respective professional coaching staff, and to those employed and paid salaries to make Western Province a successful sporting business.
The message that has got seriously lost in translation is that Marais wanted player cuts and that he wanted Treu (who last year was on the Stormers coaching staff) employed as director of rugby in place of incumbent Gert Smal.
Treu’s proposed new role was not as director or as part of the Stormers coaching. The idea was that he would be in a high-performance role, with his IP value there to follow world rugby trends, get greater global education through his interaction with leading coaches and individuals from other sporting codes. He would then transfer this knowledge to coaches within the professional structures and also within the amateur region.
Players, apparently opposed to Treu, called a crisis meeting. They allegedly made demands that it was them or Treu, and for now they will feel they hold the power to get what they want.
It stank of an agenda-based attempt to discredit the leadership of Marais and also to undermine his position as president. Marais, post his election, said he would not be a ceremonial president or a puppet content to makes speeches at cocktail parties.
He wanted to get his hands dirty to clean up Western Province Rugby. The resistance is coming from those who will be exposed in any clean-up
Keohane, a multiple award-winning sports journalist, is the head of sport at Independent Media