SA Rugby took administrative control of the Western Province Rugby Football Union on Tuesday.
Following months of administrative drama at the union, the bom finally barsed.
A statement released by the South African Rugby Union (Saru) reads: “Experienced former SA Rugby CEO, Rian Oberholzer, has been appointed as an administrator and will assume oversight of the union’s affairs immediately...
“The president of Western Province, Zelt Marais, was informed of the decision [yesterday].”
Marais is at the heart of the drama, with a number of board members either suspended or walking away from the union in recent months. Among them was Peter Jooste, who said at the time of his resignation that he couldn’t be part of such a leadership.
Dinge het begin skeefloop when WP walked out on a deal to redevelop Newlands with Investec last year and then turned to Flyt Property Group to pay off debt to Investec (R50m) and Remgro (R60m).
The new Flyt pact would have seen them redevelop all their properties and move to Cape Town Stadium, but this deal has since also turned ugly, with Flyt now wanting their money back plus damages.
WP were then handed a lifeline last year when MVM Holdings wanted to come on board as private equity partners and pay off their debt, but president Marais and his mense said no and MVM took their business to the Sharks.
Saru and WP then set up a joint advisory committee to come up with a plan to save the union.
But Saru then stepped away and penned a letter to the union which, as published by Rugby365, reads: “Although the leadership of WP agreed to work with Saru in a cooperative manner, the behaviour and actions of its leadership have, in several instances, not demonstrated this.”
And now Saru president Mark Alexander adds: “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.
“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 [Saru] constitution 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 statement adds: “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...”