JOHANNESBURG - The sudden resignation of Blue Bulls Rugby Union president Gert Wessels could plunder union and Blue Bulls Company into financial ruin.
Wessels tendered in his resignation late Monday afternoon after allegations of financial mismanagement surfaced, involving loans to the embattled Blue Bulls Company (BBC) - which is the professional arm and runs the professional teams at Loftus Versfeld including the Super Rugby franchise, where the BBRU is 50% shareholder.
However, Wessels has pleaded innocence to the allegations citing that the decisions to alleviate the financial burdens of the BBC was a collective decision that includes the very individuals who have orchestrated his exit and the finance committee which approves all transactions from the union’s accounts.
“I decided to step down, but to single me out as the scapegoat is unfair and vindictive. As soon as the shareholders' agreement was signed in 1998 - long before I took office as president, it became the union's responsibility to finance the company," Wessels said to Netwerk24.
“For as long as the union has a 50 percent share in the company, its management has to look after the company's best interests. These decisions were not made by me alone, but collectively in the relevant management divisions.”
Wessel’s, who also serves as chairperson of the BBC board of directors and also chairs the company, Assupol, which is the biggest sponsor of the BBRU, and his exit could see the union’s coffers run dry.
“I can confirm that Gert Wessels has resigned from his position as president of the union. He did so this afternoon,” said BBRU chief executive officer DR Eugene Hare.
“He (Wessels) has also given me the undertaking that he will not withdraw his sponsorship of the union until the end of the year,” Hare added.
But with the sponsorship coming to a conclusion at the end of the year, it is highly unlikely that Assupol will renew their partnership with the union plundering them into financial distress in the same way that the BBC is allegedly under at the moment and placing both entities in financial trouble.
Wessels, who was voted into power at the end of 2014, was to finish his four year tenure in November this year after a hostile takeover from then president Louis Nel with a motion of no confidence in his leadership having been tabled last week by dissident Carlton League clubs and the leadership at Limpopo Blue Bulls.
According to Hare, Wessels successor who will serve on an interim basis until the Annual General Meeting at the end of the year will have to be appointed in the next two weeks as prescribed in their constitution and the special meeting will be convened by the 17 men strong committee of vice and deputy presidents of the BBRU.
BBC chief executive officer Barend van Graan was unavailable for comment as he was on a business trip to Cape Town, but late last year had indicated to Independent Media that the books of the professional entity were sound even though they were taking strain from the low stadium attendance at Loftus from Super Rugby and Currie Cup.
Van Graan acknowledged that the financial pressure of empty stadiums had meant that they go on a retrenchment process that saw junior team coaches Dewey Swartbooi and Denzil Frans including Super Rugby and Currie Cup defence coach Pine Pienaar and team manager and former Springbok flank Tim Dlulane who are all embroiled in legal litigation with the BBC over their dismissals.
“The Company is under financial pressure but sound, although we had a decline in revenue during the past year due to attendance at Loftus Versfeld. The Company embarked on a cost savings exercise as part of our turnaround strategy, and the restructuring and the subsequent retrenchments are part of this strategy,” Van Graan said at the end of the last year refuting claims that the Bulls were on the brink of bankruptcy.