Athol Trollip, mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay metro. File picture: ANA
Port Elizabeth – Cash strapped Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) has been saved and will be bailed out of its liquidation debt by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

This after a proposed bail out was approved by council on Tuesday. The deal will see an amount of R15 million paid to the EP rugby union over the next three years.

The bail out further comes with an agreement with the South African Rugby Union (Saru) that the Bay will receive three international test matches over a four-year period.

If EPRU was to be liquidated, the province would have ceased to have a host union. Without a host union international tests matches would cease to exist for the Eastern Cape and rugby was expected to suffer exponentially.

MMC for Economic Development, Tourism and Agriculture, Andrew Whitfield, said that the bail out would not just benefit the EP Kings, but also many other teams which were affiliated with EP Rugby.

“The 2012 resolution was a bail out in a purer sense under the same administration that lead it into that dire situation. The conditions to this agreement are- that there needed to be fresh elections, there must be an oversight committee, there must be administration by Saru and the oversight committee must ensure that the monies that are allocated are spent appropriately,” said Whitfield.

Whitfield believed that the bail out would be progressive for the city and would keep the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium open for business, adding that the Bay’s economy would benefit.

“In order for the stadium to remain viable…we need to mitigate against losses by looking for new income streams. These international rugby tests, PE has never had 3 international tests in four years. It’s unprecedented, it’s historic, it’s good for rugby, it’s good for transformation in rugby, it’s good for growing local talent,” he said.

Executive Mayor Athol Trollip said it was a difficult decision as the administration had decided — “no more money for EP Rugby until they got their house in order — and they did that”.

“They elected an executive body that we never had with competent people who have an agenda, a plan to fill our stadium and to resuscitate our union. The whole objective around the proposal was to save the union, no money is going to EP [Kings], no money is going to the Southern Kings — [the money] is going to save the union,” said Trollip.

The mayor added that it would be negotiated for top tier nations to come and play at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

Last month, André Rademan was voted in as the new president of EP Rugby. Long-serving president Cheeky Watson finally stepped down from his post at the end of February just a month before he was arrested on charges of fraud and money laundering.