Kings facing player exodus?
rugby365 can reveal that the 10-day deadline for paying the players' October salaries expired at midnight (Tuesday, November 10) without any action from the Kings management.
Nyaniso Sam, a spokesman for the South African Rugby Players Association, confirmed that no salaries were paid to players by the midnight cut-off.
"As a result the players can now legally cancel any existing contracts with the Eastern Province Rugby Union [Kings] and take up offers elsewhere," Sam told rugby365.
"Players who do not have offers from others franchises still have the option of staying away from training until such time as their salaries are paid in full."
The Kings' supporters club, the EP Kings Army, claimed stalwart Tim Whitehead will be the first player not to report for duty when the team starts Super Rugby pre-season training next week.
The players have been on a post-Currie Cup break.
Whitehead was one of the leading figures in the white armband protest last month and has been at loggerheads with the boardroom brigade over his actions.
The Eastern Province Kings, for the third time this year, took to public protest over unpaid salaries – this time in a match.
The EP Kings matchday 22 wore white armbands in their 27-48 Currie Cup loss to the Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, October 2.
This move was in support of non-playing squad members who at that stage had not received their salaries for the month of September. There were also protest (strike) action over unpaid salaries in June, July and August.
Some salaries were eventually paid, with reports claiming the Nelson Mandela Bay taxpayers' money were used to foot the bills.
And the October salaries have still not been paid.
There is also a court case pending in which the Nelson Mandela Bay Ratepayers Association and trade union AfriForum – who revealed the taxpayers saga – are challenging the legality of the re-appointment of Access Management as operators of the NMB Stadium.
With EPRU President Cheeky Watson currently abroad – either attending a family wedding or speaking to giant oil and mining conglomerate in Australia about a potential sponsorship, depending on which reports you believe – executive member Vernon Stuurman has been acting as a spokesman.
However, his responses have been vague at best, opting to distance the EPRU and Kings from any wrongdoing, rather than addressing the actual cash crisis.
Other reports suggested that the reported ZAR200-million sponsorship Watson has been boasting about will be substantially less when/if it eventually materialises.
Some media reports suggested it will be less than ZAR150-million and will be paid out over five years. The first payment could be as much as ZAR40-million, but thereafter it will be no more than ZAR25-million a year.
Watson has been unavailable for media comments and any attempts by rugby365 to contact Watson have been met with statements from the EPRU attributed to Stuurman.
There are reports that players like Bulls discard Jurgen Visser are keen to head to Port Elizabeth, but without a confirmed sponsor and unpaid salaries, the exodus might be much bigger than the list of 'new signings'.
Jan de Koning