Province's choice: Professional or amateur
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Western Province Rugby Football Union clubs will go to the polls in November and their choice appears to be as simple as Turkeys voting for Christmas.
It is, in fact, a critical decision for the troubled WPRFU – whose excellent performances on the field of late, belie some of the machinations going on behind-the-scenes.
The clubs need to decide if the union is going to go the amateur or professional route
Western Province, the only union in South Africa without a private equity investor, since they parted ways with Remgro, have been 100 percent owned by the amateur arm.
In November this year there are presidential elections – after the incumbent Thelo Wakefield’s constitutionally limited presidency comes to an end.
The two prime candidates appear to represent two different ideologies.
On the one hand, you have incumbent executive member and national selector Peter Jooste.
On the flip side of the coin is current Deputy President Zelt Marais.
Jooste understands the machinations of professional rugby.
Marais, on the other hand, is more club and amateur man and is working hard to secure their votes.
Province boasts over 100 clubs, each with a vote – irrelevant the size of the club.
A prime example is Stellenbosch, one of the biggest clubs in the world. They would have the same vote as a small club barely able to field three teams in the lowest league.
Marais understands this very well.
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From being liquidated in 2016 and having lost their equity investor, Western Province has done reasonably well – managing to barely stay afloat, despite the obvious challenges.
It is common cause that all South African unions’ finances are in a state of financial trouble.
Part of Wakefield’s leadership was the appointment of Paul Zacks as CEO – a well-known turn-around specialist, with the brief to do exactly that.
And it appears, on the surface, that their plan is working – in that Western Province still sits with the bulk of their property assets.
They are, apparently, close to a deal to move to the Cape Town Stadium.
There are certainly unions in a worse position.
Now with the clubs choosing a new President and being the 100 percent shareholder in the professional rugby company, Western Province is at a crossroads.
Do they go the sharp end of professional rugby, with a private equity investor, under the guidance of the company and its Chief Executive Zacks = who appears to have the backing of the South African Rugby Union and its sponsors?
Or do they go the more amateur, club representative route, which barely exists in the professional era?
The elections of November should determine the future of Western Province and the path it chooses.