CAPE TOWN – The Western Province and Stormers teams are targeting a 2021 move to the Cape Town Stadium from Newlands, although it is dependent on the City of Cape Town.
That was the view of WP Rugby Union president Thelo Wakefield, who appeared on SuperSport rugby programme Phaka on Tuesday night.
The long-running saga of rugby’s big move to the 2010 World Cup stadium has been on the table for a number of years, with one of the major stumbling blocks being the lack of hospitality suites at the Green Point-based building.
Newlands, which is owned by WP, has over 300 suites, while Cape Town Stadium is believed to have just over 100.
But moves are afoot to make the move happen, and the City will announce their decision on whether WP will be accepted at a full council meeting at the end of October, according to Wakefield.
“The curtain will come down on Newlands. Let me make it abundantly clear that no property of (WP) – whether it be a house, or Brookside, or Oranjezicht, Newlands, wherever, will be sold. We will never sell off our properties, we will develop it,” Wakefield said.
“These properties have been laying there, and brought no money into the union. Now we’re saying, ‘Why don’t we develop Brookside, Newlands?’
“It is a fact that we will move across to the Cape Town Stadium. The process is such that I have signed a heads of agreement with the City Council. The City has appointed a commission to investigate the matter of rugby coming to the Cape Town Stadium.
“A full council meeting will be held at the end of October. At that meeting, the City will say it’s either yes for Western Province, or no for Western Province. If it is yes, we will move to the Cape Town Stadium for many reasons.
“First of all, we don’t need to maintain Newlands anymore. Secondly, it is a world-class stadium. It is a very modern stadium, and modern professional rugby players demand that... like at the Cape Town Sevens. (People) can park in Cape Town, enjoy the day and enjoy the rugby experience.”
Wakefield acknowledged that the people of Cape Town are divided over leaving Newlands or not, but he added that “we can’t pay our bills with emotions”.
“We will develop Newlands into a business entity. We are consulting with various developers. Stormers and Western Province will play at Cape Town Stadium. It would’ve been 2020, but with the City Council dragging their feet, we will now look at 2021, when we will move there,” he said.
“On paper, we are the richest union in South Africa – our properties are worth R485 million. That’s the WP Rugby Football Union, but the company owns nothing.
“Because the union had to finance the company all the time, and draining the union, we had to liquidate the company and start all over again.
“It will cost us much less to play at Cape Town Stadium because our maintenance per year runs into millions at Newlands.”
Wakefield said that he is also coming to the end of his tenure as WP president, and was serving his last two months in the post.
It is believed that current deputy president Zelt Marais and executive committee member Peter Jooste are among the likely candidates who will contest the November 26 elections for the presidency.@ashfakmohamed
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