WPRFU cash crisis: COVID the cause of SA Rugby 'takeover'
CONFIRMED: SA Rugby has stepped in to ‘assist’ Western Province Rugby Football Union, amidst a looming financial crisis.
WPRFU President Zelt Marais confirmed to @rugby365com that a committee is now running the show at the Newlands-based union.
“It was discussed in a General Council meeting this past Monday,” Marais told this website.
“It is collaborative management between WPPR, WPRFU and SARU,” he added.
“It is mainly as a result of the COVID-19 devastation on all franchises, in that fans are not allowed into stadia.”
It is believed that a media briefing has been scheduled for next week, despite an SA Rugby decision not to comment on what is described as an ‘ongoing process’.
A report in the Afrikaans daily newspaper Die Burger, revealed that the committee is made up of three members from SA Rugby and three from WPRFU.
The report also suggests that Basil Haddad, a now-retired former financial chief of SA Rugby official, is ‘chairing’ the committee.
Whispers of the SA Rugby takeover at the cash-strapped Newlands-based union, have been swirling around since the circulation of some revealing council meeting minutes last week.
The names of the committee members have not been confirmed, but some branches of the Newlands grapevine suggested the WPRFU President, Marais, WP Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd Chairman Ebrahim Rasool, as well as either Deputy President Moneeb Levy or vice-president Ronald Bantom were representing the union.
The decision by SA Rugby to step in, comes in the wake of a letter – sent by Tygerberg and supported by 15 other clubs – requesting the national body assumes control of the embattled union.
SA Rugby was initially reluctant to take such a drastic step, but despite an exploratory meeting between SA Rugby and WPRFU officials, Tygerberg and the supporting clubs stood their ground.
The unhappiness stems from the precarious financial position WPRFU finds itself in, in the wake of the decision to try and walk away from yet another big loan agreement with a benefactor.
The WPRFU is on the brink of a financial collapse, facing huge damages claims – after attempting to withdraw from an agreement with Flyt Property to redevelop Newlands Stadium.
Dream World Investments – an associated company within the Flyt Group – in March filed formal papers on WPRFU in the Western Cape High Court to recover a loan amount of nearly ZAR112-million and interest.
It was the third time in less than a year that WPRFU, under the leadership of Marais, attempted to walk away from a major deal.
After walking away from agreements (which included loans) with Remgro and Investec, WPRFU also dropped Smith Tabata Buchanan Boyes (the Blouberg-based company that represented them throughout the negotiations and finalisation of the term sheet and loan agreement with Flyt) like a hot potato.
Korbers Inc, a legal firm operating out of Cape Town central, is now acting on behalf of the union and sent a letter to Flyt – claiming the Newlands and Brookside properties were ‘undervalued’ in the agreement and should be valued between ZAR377-million and ZAR390-million, rather than the just under ZAR112-million of the agreement.
The administrative mess that WPRFU finds itself in, is best depicted in the minutes of a Special General Meeting held at Newlands on March 8 this year.
Manenberg Rangers, supported by Macassar, suggested that the meeting was NOT ‘properly constituted’ and suggested it was in breach of the union’s constitution – as the debate around the President’s opening remarks took up a substantial portion of the meeting.
The term ‘toxic‘ – as was the case in other recent meetings – was again uttered to describe the mood of the meeting, while Manenberg suggested the union’s constitution was “raped“.
* (Article continues below, with another dramatic resignation …)
* Meanwhile, amidst all the turmoil, it was confirmed that another member of the WPPR board has walked away.
Rasool confirmed the departure of Lauren Benjamin, an experienced Human Resources professional with a proven track record for sourcing and managing talent, to @rugby365com.
“Lauren Benjamin has resigned,” Rasool confirmed.
“This had been discussed with us before and therefore came as no surprise.
“We had asked her to stay longer to allow us to assign the WPPR responsibilities allocated to her to someone else and ensure that the turnaround of WPPR is on course, as we now believe it to be.
“It must be noted that on top of being an accomplished full-time professional, Ms Benjamin has small children whose time with her was being taken away by her WPPR responsibilities.
“We, therefore, understand her need to focus more on her family.
“We thank her for having driven the process to find a new CEO for WPPR to where it is now. This process will be completed in due course.”
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