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VIDEO: Concerns remain over equity deal, despite 'productive' meeting

South African Rugby Union CEO Rian Oberholzer described it as a “productive” meeting, but key role players remain unconvinced over the proposed equity deal with the American company Ackerley Sports Group.

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SARU revealed last month that they are negotiating with ASG for a potential investment of US$75-million (ZAR1.4-billion) in the game in the Republic.

Oberholzer admitted they are still ‘negotiating’ with their ‘preferred bidder’, ASG.

The four main franchises – Stormers (despite being under SARU administration), Lions, Bulls and Sharks – have sought some ‘clarity’ over the proposed equity deal with brothers Ted and Christopher Ackerley.

This was the only point on the agenda at a ‘feedback’ meeting in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Despite the feeling that there remain ‘too many grey areas and unanswered questions’, Oberholzer was adamant that they have made progress.

“All we asked them [the general council] in December was to allow us to negotiate [with ASG] and turn the terms sheet into a firm offer,” Oberholzer told a media briefing on the sideline of the country’s national awards ceremony in Johannesburg.

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“We promised them [the 14 domestic unions] that we will give them feedback.

“The first [feedback] session was today [Thursday],” the SARU CEO said, adding: “We had a very productive session.”

Oberholzer felt a lot of the SARU member unions’ concerns were addressed, but admitted “a lot of hard work” still needs to be done before they can get the deal over the line.

“We will give more feedback to them [member unions] in April,” he added.

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The other issues that are of concern for the four main franchises – the millions demanded by SARU for the rights to host Test matches, the famed PONI contracts and SARU’s conversion from ‘associate’ member status to full membership of the United Rugby Championship – were not discussed.

(WATCH as SARU CEO Rian Oberholzer fronts up to the media to answer some questions surrounding the proposed equity deal with an American company, the ASG group….)

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When the question of the Test match guarantees – another sticking point in the recent disharmony between the national body and the four main franchises – was put to Oberholzer, the CEO said there are not just four members, but 14 member unions.

SARU is asking for ZAR85-million in guarantees for the rights to host Test matches – ZAR20-million for the All Black Tests at Ellis Park and Cape Town, ZAR15-million for the Ireland Tests at Loftus Versfeld and Kings Par. At the same time, the Pumas are expected to fork out ZAR10 million to host a Test against Argentina and the Cheetahs ZAR5-million to host Portugal.

“We have to fund them,” he said of the member unions, adding: “All 14 do not have the opportunity to host a Test.

“It will be wrong for us that only the four or six that can host Tests to take the bulk of the money.

“Surely there needs to be some kind of payment to host Tests, which we then plough back into the sport and all our unions benefit.

“The only thing we own is Test matches.

“That belongs to us.

“Unions don’t have a right to host Tests.

“It is a privilege and we decide where the Tests will be played.

“There must be a way in which that huge income generator can be shared amongst 14 provinces and not just four.”

Oberholzer, Tournament Director of the 1995 World Cup and the first CEO of SANZAR, said the unions should not just generate money from ticket sales for Tests.

“You must use the Test to sell season tickets and sell your suites,” he said, adding: “You must commercialise your venue and union.

“You can’t say that a Test is financially important to us.

“It should be there to assist you.

“There also needs to be control over the product.”

SARU President Mark Alexander, earlier this week, spat the dummy over franchise officials who have leaked sensitive information to the media.

Alexander, addressing a media briefing to reveal Rassie Erasmus’ new-look coaching panel to the public, was asked about the growing firestorm between SARU and the four main franchises – Stormers, Sharks, Lions and Bulls – over Test match guarantees.

Alexander said they ‘strategically’ allocated Tests to the unions as a ‘financial boost’ to those franchises.

“It is to assist them to generate additional revenue,” Alexander started off with his response.

“We are unique in this regard,” he said, adding: “We are the only national union that allocates Tests in this manner.

“We don’t need to do that.

“Test matches last year earned £48-million [ZAR1140-million] for the RFU [England’s national body]. The Irish Rugby Union [earned] €43-million [ZAR873-million from Tests]. Wales [also earned] £48-million [ZAR1140-million].

“We are more than generous to assist our franchises,” Alexander said.

@rugby365com

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