WPRFU don't want just 'warm words and promises'
SEPARATING THE FACTS FROM THE FLUFF: The Western Province Rugby Football Union is keen on a face-to-face meeting with Marco V Masotti.
Masotti, the South African-born-and-bred American lawyer, is the face of the American consortium MVM Holdings that is negotiating with WPRFU for a controlling share in Western Province Professional Rugby (Pty) Ltd – the commercial arm of WPRFU.
WPRFU President Zelt Marais and Ebrahim Rasool, newly appointed Chairman of the WPPR board, said they will not rush into a decision with any potential equity partner.
The duo was addressing a virtual media briefing in the wake of the departure of the two sponsorship representatives – Hennie Heymans (DHL) and Suzanne Stevens (BrightRock) – as directors of the board of the professional arm of WPRFU.
The departure Heymans and Stevens are the fourth and fifth members of the board of the professional arm, WPPR, to have departed under a cloud since June.
Most of the media enquiries centred around the boardroom drama this year, with a suggestion that WP Rugby may join the Southern Kings in having the execrable result of being liquidated for a second time.
Rasool said they believe they are in a better position than many other sports entities around the world and are ‘nowhere near’ in the same trouble as the Port Elizabeth-based union.
His view was echoed by Marais, who added that the ‘rich resources’ – both in property and human capital – ensures it will remain afloat.
Rasool said there is no ‘rosy picture’ anywhere in rugby, as a result of COVID-19.
He added that the sport is facing ‘enormous challenges’ all over the world.
“We have difficulties, but what we are saying is that if anyone is going to pull through it would be Western Province,” the Chairman said.
“We have the property assets, human assets, playing talent and public support. We have the ability to plan for the sustainability of Western Province without our backs against the wall.”
He said the negotiations with Masotti is ongoing, but they are keen to meet him face-to-face.
“We know there is a possibility that Masotti will be in South Africa in November,” Rasool said.
“We would like to meet with him, but we want that to be a decisive meeting – [a meeting] which says yea or nay.
“To prepare for that meeting, I will write to Masotti and ask him to give us three things in documentation form.
“The one would be to put the financial proposal on the table in clear terms so that we can separate the chaff from the wheat.
“We are saying give us the strategy you have spoken about that adds value to the franchise.
“Thirdly, tell us who the consortium is, so that we can commence with the due diligence.
“If we do this all within the next few days or weeks, we will be able to come to a definitive decision.”
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He confirmed the exclusivity period they had signed with Masotti has ended and they can now start talking to other potential equity partners.
“However, the conversation [with Masotti and MVM] is still going on and needs to move to the next level.
“We will request those documents in writing so that we can have the conversation in a decisive way when Masotti is in Cape Town, or even electronically if needs be.”
Marais pointed to the rich playing resources as a reason why WPRFU is more stable than most.
“If you look from Eastern Cape down to Cape Town, we sit with about 75 percent of all the rugby players [in South Africa],” Marais told the media briefing.
“This should be the gold mine of rugby in South Africa.
“It is the biggest concentration of rugby players in the world. There is a lot of untapped wealth.”
He added that the WPRFU has given an assurance to the Eastern Province Rugby Union, the Southern Kings and SA Rugby that they will do “everything in our power” to work alongside the Eastern Cape franchise, SWD and Boland that they take their rightful place in SA Rugby in the next three years or so.
“We [WPRFU] has a massive asset portfolio that will be unlocked over the three, four, five years,” Marais said, adding: “We are openly looking for an equity partner.
“We are not just looking for an equity partners as an investor, but a person that can specifically add value and give guarantees – value, based on tested economic terms.”
He said they don’t want just “warm words and promises”.
“Whatever we do, it should be committed legally and it should be a win-win for both parties.
“We are not going to rush into anything.
“Sometimes the dollars might look nice, but short-term greed could be long-term disaster.”
Marais also touched on reports that they are about to walk out on the Flyt deal.
“We are not renegotiating anything,” the WPRFU President said, adding: “We are tuning [looking at] the fine print.
“We are getting into the long form of the agreements.
“It is our fiduciary duty to our shareholder (WPRFU].”
He said the timeline for developments of Newlands and Brookside could be anywhere between three to 10 years.
“Rezoning takes 18 months to two years for smaller developments like Brookside and three years for bigger developments like Newlands,” Marais said.
He said the Newlands development could commence in about three to four years and the development period could be anything from seven to 10 years.
He also addressed a question about the union’s ongoing cash flow challenges.
“There is sufficient cash flow for us going in the short to medium term.
“We are having ongoing meetings with SA Rugby.
“There are also measures by World Rugby,” he said, adding that top UK clubs are also pleading for funding from their governments and said those clubs are in a worse position than WPRFU.
“We have measures in place to ensure we have sufficient cash flow to meet our daily needs.”
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