Tue 12 Oct 2021 | 12:55

WPRFU: The rise and fall of a 'war room'

WPRFU: The rise and fall of a 'war room'
Tue 12 Oct 2021 | 12:55
WPRFU: The rise and fall of a 'war room'
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The warning signs have been there for a couple of months and the bomb finally dropped on Tuesday when SA Rugby advised the Western Province Rugby Football Union that it was invoking its constitutional power to take administrative control of the Union.

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The administrative takeover, with experienced former SARU CEO Rian Oberholzer now assuming oversight of the union’s affairs, was first raised almost two months ago when the national body pulled the plug on the WPRFU/SARU Advisory Committee.

As @rugby365com reported in early September, SA Rugby Chief Executive Officer Jurie Roux penned a letter that informed WPRFU President Zelt Marais that SARU has withdrawn from and ended the existence of the WPRFU/SARU Advisory Committee.

Tuesday’s big move, although not entirely surprising, also put a spanner in the works of the much-maligned ‘war room’ that was set up in the Newlands presidential suite in the hope of righting the listing ship.

Gary Craul, the self-proclaimed leading business strategist, was the head of the Strategy Committee (or war room) at Newlands for the past three weeks.

Despite the looming SARU takeover, @king365ed sat down with Craul on Monday to get his insights on what the ‘war room’ is all about and some behind the scenes developments.

Craul, in the immediate aftermath of the SARU statement on Tuesday, said: “We’re going to be fighting it.

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“They have not taken any consideration of what has been happening around the fringes,” he told @rugby365com, adding: “Nor have they spent any time coming to get a view of what we have achieved over the last three weeks.

“We’re about to place 10s of millions into the union’s account and they are not even listening.

“They have not interacted with StratCom to understand what we have been working on, our progress and pending developments.

“The people, strategies, investments, sponsorship options, etc in the pipeline are significant and need to be understood.”

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@rugby365com has also reached out to the WPRFU President, Marais, for reaction and will publish that as soon as we get it.

* Despite Tuesday’s developments, the entire Gary Craul interview with @king365ed is published below.

It is broken up in snippets – surrounding all the salient points and developments over the last few months.

* The full 30-minute-long interview is at the bottom

The birth of a ‘war room’

Addressing some of the yarns surrounding the much-maligned ‘war room’ – or strategy committee as some prefer to call it – Craul said he approached Marais with the idea.

“It was us coming to Zelt, not Zelt randomly looking for a team to play a role,” he told @rugby365com.

“I am there to help.”

Craul said, contrary to many reports, the StratCom is NOT a decision-making body.

“It is not about Zelt Marais, anyway,” he said, adding: “It is: ‘Can we help Western Province?’

“We all care about Province.”

He explained why ‘property experts’ should take charge of WPRFU’s property portfolio and not leave it in the hands of union officials.

Craul also touched on his opposition to the Staytus deal and reasons for this stance.

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The cost of running a war room

He flatly denied that they are billing WPRFU for their services and said the union can’t afford to pay them at the moment.

“It has been very frustrating,” Craul said, adding: “We are a little angry.

“We agreed to charge no fees at all, for the first two months.

“If we do charge – only after two months and we have brought in some investment money – then the associates will bill at a bargain-basement rate.

“There are no fees being billed at present.

“We will also bill them two or three months late.

“We need to get them out of the financial ‘dwang’, not [more] into it.

“Right not it [our services] are free,” he said of the courtesies that they could bill for between ZAR30,000 to ZAR50,000 per day.

“That is what we can charge and that is what we are giving up.

“Hennie [le Roux] hasn’t even mentioned money to me,” he said of the 1995 World Cup-winning Springbok.

He said there might be costs later on, if there is money and WPRFU still want them around.

“There is no obligation for them to use us at all.”

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War room priorities

He said two of the key priorities is to get enough money in the bank to allow them to operate and settling the well-documented Flyt loan.

Craul admitted some of the most well-documented issues – such as the unhappiness of certain sponsors, as well as SARU being aggrieved and unquiet over the administrative bungling – require urgent attention.

“The big focus, in parallel, are the property issue, short-term cash flow and the long-term issues.

“We are looking for long-term investors who can bring big money into the union.”

Craul said one investor is already ‘hooked’, offering a comprehensive and good deal – covering the development of the property, settling with Flyt and investing in the professional arm.

“That letter of intent is already sitting with SARU.

“SARU is aware of it and that money could be here this week.”

He added that the StratCom has asked to meet with the auditors.

“They are not going to change the ‘business rescue or not’ situation because of what we say. They will change it when there is money in the bank.”

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Long-term strategy for properties and the company

Craul explained why the new developer and equity partner will get 90 percent of the properties and 74 percent of the company – WP Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd.

“I have said it before,” he said, adding: “They need the professionals to do that.”

He said the company will get a lot more for their property than what the ‘balance sheet value’ is, while maintaining 10 percent of the property value to ensure they get a monthly income.

Craul admitted that a ‘ball-park figure’ of ZAR350-million is reasonably accurate for what the investor will pay for the 90 percent of the property.

“The union will sit with ZAR200-million, purely for amateur rugby,” he said.

He added that the same investor will also put ‘hundreds of millions’ into the company (WPPR) for a 74 percent shareholding in the company.

“It is not why did Zelt to from 51 percent to 74 percent. It is the right thing to do.

“It leaves to union with a significant minority [in the company], which is what SARU wants.”

He added that it should not always be just one party at 74 percent.

“We would like to see two or three investors.”

He said these investors need to add value in four areas – rugby, Cape Town, technology and the community itself.

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The Junaid Moerat saga

The suspended ExCo Five at the weekend raised the matter of a letter which the President, Marais, reportedly solicited from Craul and which allegedly contained ‘defamatory’ statements.

According to the ExCo Five Craul was subsequently paid back by the President by making him Chairman of his War Room.

Speaking about the Moerat letter, Craul said it was “not accurate” in any way and the letter was “never” solicited by Marais as the ExCo Five’s statement suggested..

“What I saw at the weekend, was atrocious,” he told @rugby365com.

“We have already contacted our legal people in the team.

“We will be responding to those people through our lawyers.”

He added the statements in the ExCo Five’s release at the weekend include “inaccuracies, lies and deception”.

“Any idea that Zelt contacted me to write something negative and defamatory about Junaid is absolutely rubbish,” he said.

He said he has nothing against Junaid Moerat.

“He is part of a great family,” Craul said of the Moerat family in Paarl – including current Stormers captain Salmaan Moerat and his cousin Ebrahim Moerat, the latter a former SA Under-21 prop.

Craul added that he and Junaid Moerat had dealings, some time ago – that had nothing to do with rugby.

After Moerat was suspended from the WPRFU ExCo, Craul said he called Zelt Marais and gave him his view.

“Marais asked me if I was willing to talk to the disciplinary committee Chairman.

“I gave him my view [of Moerat]. That is in writing, letter that has been sent out to a couple of people.”

He said he was given the option of “taking it further” or writing a letter and after thinking about it, he wrote a letter to the ExCo.

“There was no request from the President [Zelt Marais]. It was a personal, professional view from me working with him [Moerat] in a totally different environment.

“I don’t think my view of him should go on the record. That is a good family.”

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@king365ed
@rugby365com

Also worth reading

SA Rugby steps in to take over WPRFU
WPRFU must get rid of amateur attitude
Zelt: Why we baulked at Staytus deal
Zelt accused of ‘conspiratorial management’
Zelt suspends five dissenting voices
Tygerberg goes after Zelt dissenters
WPRFU court saga: It is a stalemate
SARU ultimatum has WPRFU scrambling
SARU pulls the plug on WPRFU

  • The entire Gary Craul interview …

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