CAPE TOWN - There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the resignation of directors on the WP Rugby board, and the challenges around paying off loans and staff salaries over the last few years.
At the heart of the matter is securing a long-term equity partner for WP Professional Rugby (WPPR) – the company that looks after the professional set-up within the province – as well as developing Newlands and other properties as the union will move to Cape Town Stadium next year.
The main reason why the situation has come about is that the WPPR have just not been self sustainable, and have even had to rely on loans from their main shareholder, the WP Rugby Football Union (WPRFU).
WPRFU president Zelt Marais feels that the current state of affairs cannot continue, and wants the professional arm to start generating its own income to ultimately hold on to top Springboks such as captain Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi at the province, and also importantly the main shareholders of the union – the long-suffering community clubs.
Some teams like Collegians in Mitchells Plain are unable to maintain their main playing field, and these clubs have long complained about the lack of suitable facilities and opportunities for their players to progress to the professional teams.
That is why Marais mentioned that the clubs will finally be assisted once an equity partner is in place and the property developments at Newlands and Brookside kick into gear, particularly through development centres across the Cape.
“The clubs have done a heavy investment in the professional arm itself, and now it’s time for the professional arm to deliver – to perform, to start giving those returns back to it. And, also complementing that, once the Brookside development is coming through, the clubs will start getting the rewards,” Marais said.
“And also an additional bonus – once we tie up the deal with any potential equity partner, which is not that urgent yet, but it gives you a better comfort level forward as another insurance-type thing.
“From those rewards will be given to the clubs. What we are planning for the clubs is to have a regional centre, from a development point of view, in each of our nine regions.
“We also have a lot of experts who are putting a development bond for us together to get both grant funding and donor funding from a global point of view, to ensure that we maintain the high standards we have in the Western Cape.”
But the immediate concern in a post-Covid-19 landscape is securing a suitable equity partner. WP have been in talks with the American-based MVM Holdings over the last few months, although they are against giving up a 51 percent controlling share that the consortium have demanded in exchange for a sum of R100 million.
Marais has not ruled out a deal being made with these investors, led by a former South African in Marco Masotti, but wants the deal to be fair to both parties.
There is also still a hope of getting some spectators back at Newlands should WP reach the Currie Cup final in January.
“We are very excited about the market in America, as that is a growth market. Therefore, we are quite keen to do a partnership there, but of course, a joint partnership where we can make joint decisions, and to mix the blend – to give the full commercial sweating out to the American market for us, so that we can all have a win-win situation,” Marais said.
“But we can’t have the one taking control over the other, as a marriage is not about control, but doing things in consensus.
“In terms of the sponsors, we do have an opening for an additional associate sponsor, and we are working hard to get that sponsor on board, to increase the cash-flow.
“And if we do play in the finals next year January at Newlands, which we certainly do hope for, it will also increase the cash-flow.
“We will be working very hard with SA Rugby to ensure that we can at least have 20 percent of the capacity of the stadium, especially our suite holders and season-ticket holders, to get them back on board, which will decrease the risk and we don’t have to give such a big credit into 2021.”