Wynona Louw
Wynona Louw

Zelt Marais ... Is ’new deal’ genuine or just smoke and mirrors?

By Wynona Louw Time of article published Oct 15, 2021

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Cape Town – Following Tuesday’s big developments concerning the Western Province Rugby Football Union, ousted president Zelt Marais’ War Room have made it clear that they will fight the mother body.

But how?

On Tuesday, SA Rugby announced that they had advised the WPRFU that it was invoking its constitutional power to take administrative control of the union. As part of the administrative takeover, former SA Rugby CEO Rian Oberholzer has been appointed as administrator to oversee the union’s affairs.

Since then, Marais has released a statement – two, in fact – to media and clubs.

An initial, separate statement was sent to clubs – one that excluded reference made to his StratCo (something that may have just been an oversight, or purely misleading by Marais).

In this version of the statement, he says: “It is important that other views other than my own are seriously considered by SARU in terms of their detailed approach, modus operandi, and their operational intervention framework.

ALSO READ: Western Province rugby union failed test, says Saru

Specifically, the views and parameters suggested by the independent non-executive board member, mandated to lead the commercialisation aspects of the WP Rugby should be taken into account; and the approach, progress, and status of the short term and strategic interventions underway, under the oversight of the General Council approved StratCom, should be understood and effectively leveraged to the advantage of WP Rugby.

Marais then continues to say: "I remain positive and have no intention of abandoning the vision that we had set for ourselves of making WP Rugby a global leader in Rugby." Marais also says that "now is not the time to debate the merits of the intervention by SA Rugby".

ALSO READ: WP board resigns due to ’increased hostility’ from union president Zelt Marais

Now, while the mere fact that Marais is still calling for SARU to take into account the “other views” of the “independent, non-executive board member mandated to lead the commercialisation aspects of WP Rugby” is baffling enough considering the demise of the union under his leadership. It also concerning that Marais does not intend on abandoning his vision for WP Rugby and alludes to questioning the merits of the SARU intervention.

What is even more bizarre is how the co-leader of his War Room, Gary Craul, maintains they were on the brink of getting a cash injection, curiously on the day SARU placed the union under administration.

Speaking to Netwerk24, Craul said a new investor was willing to make the first payment on Tuesday morning, the same day the union was placed under administration.

ALSO READ: Possible conflict of interest aside ... Zelt Marais’ ‘War Room’ could cost WP more money

“It’s a great deal they (SA Rugby) did not contact us properly. The timing could not have been worse. I don’t know what we are going to do. We are disappointed. That’s all I can say.

“We were getting rid of all the negative elements, arranging capital in the short term and dealing with the property issue. The guy we were bringing in to manage the real-estate portfolio, is one of the best in South Africa. It (SA Rugby’s intervention) makes no sense.”

There are more than a couple of issues with those statements.

Firstly, in an interview with rugby365.com, Craul himself said “contrary to many reports, the StratCom is NOT a decision-making body”. So, on what grounds could money be paid to the union without the approval of the executive committee, the board or general council?

ALSO READ: Another failed equity deal by WPRFU president Zelt Marais

How could Marais, Craul and the rest of their War Room give the go-ahead on a deal without any approval from those outside of the committee they created themselves? It is clear that Craul’s statements go against any and all of the processes that need to be adhered to.

Also, what was promised to whoever was supposedly about to transfer money to WP on that day, considering that the details of the deal was not presented to anybody outside the War Room?

It has also come to our attention that Marais and Craul were asked to leave the president suite on Wednesday, where the War Room operated from, and hand in their keys to prevent them from accessing the WP offices.

Last week, IOL Sport reported that Marais was in talks to secure a deal that will see the majority stakes in the union being sold. He went on to propose the deal – which involves 90 percent stake in property and 74 percent in equity being sold – to clubs, this despite having walked away or rejecting several other deals including Investec, MVM, Flyt, Staytus and another equity deal. It is understood that this sudden cash injection would have come from this investor.

So, considering all of that, it’s hard to consider any other scenario than Marais and his War Room lying about the money they were about to secure for the union. Either that or Marais was simply, again, acting unilaterally.

@WynonaLouw

IOL Sport

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