Mon 21 Jun 2021 | 01:26

The 'perfect storm' that hit SA franchises

The 'perfect storm' that hit SA franchises
Mon 21 Jun 2021 | 01:26
The 'perfect storm' that hit SA franchises

The absence of the main sponsor on the Lions’ jersey for their opening round Currie Cup outing against the Pumas at the weekend caused a media storm.


It certainly did not help that the Lions suffered an embarrassing 10-39 loss to the Pumas in Nelspruit this past Friday.

It resulted in a mass outcry and suggestions of a crumbling union, with sponsors jumping ship.

However, according to Lions Rugby Company CEO Rudolf Straeuli and Pieter Burger, Managing Director of Ellis Park Stadium (Pty) Ltd, nothing could be further from the truth.

The team’s Currie Cup sponsor, Xerox, remains involved in the union and have not departed because of the team’s on-field performances.

The jersey sponsorship expired in January and at the same time, the SA affiliate company was bought out by the holding company in the United States – with the head office not keen on appearing on sporting teams’ jerseys.

Rank Xerox South Africa Ltd was sold to Fintech, a member of the Altron Group, earlier this year.


However, Straeuli confirmed that Xerox’s association with the Lions, which stretches over nearly three decades, will continue through its American head office.

“They will continue as an in-stadium advertiser and remains a valuable asset to the Lions,” Straeuli said.

The Lions’ negotiations with potential new jersey sponsorships are ongoing.

Both Straeuli and Burger admitted that the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is being felt by the Lions – as is the case with all South Africa’s franchises.


Apart from the well-documented issues around income streams – such as the inability to sell suites and a lack of spectators at stadiums – the strict austerity measures announced by SA Rugby at its AGM in May, means the individual franchises have each lost ZAR16-million in grants from the national union.

Burger, speaking to @rugby365com, described the COVID-related cash crunch as the “perfect storm”.

“COVID has had a massive impact on companies across all spheres of the entertainment industry,” Burger said.

“We will continue to battle on, with everything at our disposal.

“Keep in mind that all the franchises are in the same position.

“We have been without income from suites or spectators for 15 months.

“The SA Rugby grant was a massive blow to all the franchises,” he added.

Burger and Straeuli said they are far from throwing in the towel and are convinced they will come through this a stronger franchise.

Of course, there are also concerns around the team’s performances – with just one win in the Rainbow Cup and starting the Currie Cup with a big loss.

However, Straeuli believes the return of some key players will see the team’s form take an upwards curve.



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