Bok's contract cancellation a masterstroke
OPINION: The Pieter-Steph du Toit contract saga has evoked enormous reaction on both sides of the dialogue.
It may just be a masterstroke by the World Rugby Player of the Year, as he looks to protect his interests.
Western Province Rugby has made it clear they are not happy with Du Toit’s decision to tear up his contract – which was part of the plan formulated and agreed by bodies representing SA Rugby, MyPlayers (the players’ representative organisation), Sport Employees’ Unite (employees’ trade union) and the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation (SAREO – representing the provincial unions).
For the record, let’s just revisit the media release dispatched by WP Rugby, the professional arm of the Western Province Rugby Football Union, on Saturday.
“As previously indicated by WP Rugby, the existing contracts between the players and the Company are considered as binding and WP Rugby has reserved the right to hold players to these contracts or exercise other rights that may be held. These options will be discussed with the players that have purportedly cancelled their contracts and more information about the course of action will be provided in future.”
This dispatch followed a day after SA Rugby confirmed in a media release the details of pay cuts and other economic policies to slice up to ZAR1.2-billion from the sport’s budget by the end of the year.
The SA Rugby plan had allowed players and other employees to cancel their current contracts if they don’t agree with the salary cuts – which in the case of top earners like Du Toit, would mean as much as 43 percent of their earnings are sliced off.
The deadline for those contract cancellations was this past Thursday, May 14, at midnight.
Only a small number of players have taken up the option to cancel their contracts.
Two of them are World Cup-winning Springboks – Du Toit and Lions hooker Malcolm Marx.
Two other Stormers players took up the May 14 (or 21-day) option: Cobus Wiese and Jean-Luc du Plessis.
The Lions took the biggest blow – Tyrone Green, Ruan Vermaak and Shaun Reynolds joined Marx at the exit door, along with assistant coach Neil de Bruin, followed by the Bulls (who lost Johnny Kotze and Dylan Sage) and the Sharks (Tyler Paul).
Now, back to Du Toit and his contract-saga over the weekend.
Reports that he is about to head to France or Japan are egregiously exaggerated.
Let’s get a couple of facts straight:
1. Pieter-Steph du Toit and/or his representatives are in negotiations with the WPRFU.
2. Pieter-Steph du Toit and/or his representatives are NOT in negotiations with anybody outside Cape Town.
It is obvious he has no intention of walking away from Newlands right now.
Perhaps after the British and Irish Lions tour next year. Certainly NOT now!
He just wasn’t happy to have 43 percent sliced from his salary without some recourse.
There are obviously also some other issues around his contract.
Again, as they say: ‘The devil is in the detail’.
Back to a line in the WP Rugby statement: ‘… hold players to these contracts or exercise other rights that may be held…‘
What could those ‘other rights’ be?
(Continue reading below … )
You don’t need to be a genius to realise we are talking of ‘image rights’ here!
Springbok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi is one of the few players who has control over his own ‘image rights’ and he has done well for himself as an ‘ambassador’ for various organisations.
Du Toit’s image rights are/were contained in the collective agreement – negotiated through MyPlayers and which WP Rugby was party to.
That is the agreement – according to SA Rugby’s statement on Friday – he had the right to “cancel” under the ‘Industry Financial Impact Plan’.
And I quote: “The plan was collectively designed and concluded by organisations representing SA Rugby, provincial unions, players and rugby industry employees. Thursday, 14 May at midnight was the cut off for individuals who wished to cancel their current contracts under the plan.”
Du Toit’s profile skyrocketed over the last few years and as World Rugby Player of the Year – arguably the best player on the planet – he would clearly benefit from having control over his own ‘image rights’, rather than be lumped into a collective brew with all the other players.
And perhaps that is – and will be – the sticking point in what will be robust and vigorous negotiations between the Du Toit camp and WP Rugby.
That is why it was a masterstroke by the burly loose forward to use the ‘get out’ clause offered by the SA Rugby/MyPlayers/SAREO/SEU conglomerate.
Now he can negotiate his own terms from a position of power, not as part of a group that lumps some ‘no-name brand’ players in with world-class players and give them all the same deal.
The final word from the WP Rugby statement: ‘… more information about the course of action will be provided in future.’
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