Ebrahim Rasool, new chairman of Western Province Professional Rugby, says the new CEO needs to be someone who can take Western Province Rugby forward in a post-Covid world.
The former Western Cape Premier, who took up the position in September, explained that Paul Zacks’ successor needs to come with more than just traditional chief-executive qualities, and that acumen in the field of technology will be particularly important, especially considering the move to Cape Town Stadium.
The position became vacant after Zacks’ departure back in January. Since then, WPRFU president, Zelt Marais has led an interim CEO committee.
“The reason for the delay is partly at my request because I don’t want us to employ someone as CEO when we ourselves are incoherent about the way forward, that would be employing someone in a time of uncertainty and chaos. If it was up to me, we would only consider appointing a CEO towards the end of the year once things are clearer and post-Covid life becomes more certain,” he said.
“We’ve also got to stabilise the board first, and we have to hear from the players what they need to win major trophies, performance management starts with setting those objectives. Once you have all those building blocks in place you can say to the CEO ‘these are your objectives, these are your performance indicators’, otherwise you’ve got no accountability over the guy, you’ll just be able to measure whether he’s in office five days a week or not.
On what they are looking for in a CEO, Rasool said: “The CEO can’t be a blank slate, and it doesn’t have to be an accountant, you can always insource an accountant, but he needs to know enough about accounting to read a balance sheet. Same way he doesn’t have to be a marketing guru, but he needs to know enough about marketing because you can’t supervise what you don’t know.
Pre-Covid it may have been Rands and cents that was the driving criteria for a CEO, now its Rands and cents and technology and brand, because Cape Town Stadium is one of the most technologically-enabled stadia in the world, and we need to use that to our fullest advantage to get the full fan experience.
“At Superbowl, 60-minute games are drawn out over three hours because people are E-enabled, they also get what they get when they watch from home. Some people like watching from home because they like the half-time commentary and the replays, but what if we give it to them at the stadium as well? And they’ll be getting it in real time. You should cater for over 15s, not just over 50s. That’s also a financial opportunity.
“So, a CEO needs to know about Rands and cents, bricks and mortar, property, investments and markets and, very importantly, technology and communications. We need a CEO who has a sensitivity for the unique public of the Western Cape. I’m not saying we need different experts, but we need someone with the capacity to direct all of that, supervise it and hold it accountable."
Rasool also explained that age wouldn’t be seen as a negative when it comes to filling the role, and that it can, in fact, be beneficial.
The Bulls and Sharks went that route when they appointed Edgar Rathbone, 33, and Eduard Coetzee, 41.
“When I run into trouble technologically, I run to my 21-year-old son because there’s nimbleness I have to study that he instinctively knows, so age is not a factor, and relative youth could be an advantage. The stability of age can be insourced, you can get a good accountant to underscore what you need in that area, but you need this kind of nimbleness and post-millennial thinking, that I wouldn’t even think of, to spot opportunities. So, age isn’t a disqualifier, it’s a trend we’ve been seeing more of nowadays (young CEOs).”
Rasool clarified the exit of former independent board directors Andre van der Veen, Johan van der Merwe, and Raymond van Niekerk as well as the two sponsor directors and confirmed that the process of replacing them should take shape in the near future.
“Andre van der Veen and Johan van der Merwe didn’t resign, their time was up and the shareholder had to decide on whether to retain them or replace them, Raymond van Niekerk resigned, ostensibly after their contracts weren’t renewed. I think the complexion of the board was also against them, because we needed to change the demographic of the board and the resignation of the sponsor directors solved another problem because I couldn’t understand how you could be both sponsors and directors. It’s unheard of.
“So, the opportunity of these resignations outweighs the negatives because now we can make the board demographically representative, and I don’t just mean black and white, I’m also referring to gender and skill. We also need a marketing person on there who understands the brand in a post-Covid world.
“DHL and Brightrock are not withdrawing as sponsors, they’ve purely resigned from the board. We’re hoping that the Western Province Rugby Union (amateur side) will complete their discussions and nominations for the vacancies.
Hopefully, this week those nominations will be finalised. We’ll stabilise the board in the next month.”