SA Rugby, Rian Oberholzer take administrative control of Western Province
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Cape Town - After years of financial uncertainty and off-field dramas, SA Rugby have seen enough and taken administrative control of the Western Province Rugby Football Union.
In a statement on Tuesday, SA Rugby said that Rian Oberholzer, their former chief executive, has been appointed as the administrator.
Oberholzer will take charge of the WPRFU immediately, and crucially, his remit includes supervision of the operational affairs of WP (Pty) Ltd, which manages the professional playing teams of the Stormers and Western Province.
Over the last year, the conflict between the WPRFU and the professional side of the Pty Ltd has made matters worse, with WPRFU president Zelt Marais and Pty Ltd chairperson Ebrahim Rasool at loggerheads with each other over governance matters, various equity deals and boardroom politics.
Marais has been searching for an equity partner for the last few years, but deals with various companies such as Remgro, Investec, MVM, Flyt and Staytus have not worked out.
SA Rugby said the decision to invoke their constitutional power to take administrative control of the WPRFU was taken at their Executive Council meeting on Monday, and Marais was informed on Tuesday morning.
“We had engaged with the WPRFU over a number of months on the challenges the organisation faced and tried to assist them in finding solutions,” SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said on Tuesday.
“We attempted to partner in a joint oversight committee, but were frustrated in our attempts to receive accurate information and engage constructively.
“However, the Union has regressed in its attempts to extricate itself from those challenges, and we could no longer stand by.
“This is very much the last resort, but it had become apparent that the Union’s leadership was incapable of putting in place the actions to regularise its position.
“Several of the Union’s stakeholders have contacted our offices to express their dismay, and we are aware of the public alarm.
“Clause 29 of the constitution of the South African Rugby Union charges that all unions have to ‘conduct their business affairs in such a way that, at all times, they are in a sound financial position, comply with the laws of the Republic and adhere to the requirements of good governance’.
“It is Exco’s view that WPRFU has failed that test, and we could no longer distribute SA Rugby income in that knowledge. On that basis, we have taken this decision with a heavy heart.”
The powers of Clause 29 allow for the “assumption of responsibility for the affairs of unions…(including) the suspension from office of their elected and/or appointed officials, and the appointment by SARU of administrators, who shall assume all decision-making powers of the unions at both governance and operational levels, and who shall have the authority to direct employees, including chief executive officers, on a day to day basis, such administrators to report and be accountable to and to take direction from the executive council.”
Alexander said that all rugby stakeholders – the union’s commercial partners, broadcaster, coaching staff, players’ union and United Rugby Championship partners – had been advised of the decision.
Alexander added that the decision would not have "any direct influence" on the Stormers, who are currently on tour in Europe.
“Clause 29 gives us the authority to remain in administration until the Union’s affairs are stabilised,” Alexande said.
“It is not possible right now to put a timeline to that – although it is our intention and desire to make this process as short-lived as possible.
“The most important thing right now is to quietly go about the off-field business so that coach John Dobson and the Stormers squad can focus on performing to their best in their debut season in the United Rugby Championship.”
SA Rugby stated that Oberholzer would not be making any comments to the media on the matter.