Using a story involving former Springbok Bakkies Botha as an example, ex-Scotland international Johnnie Beattie has warned that private investment may not be a saviour for professional rugby.
Beattie wrote a column for rugby website The XV warning that private investment could end up tainting professional rugby.
The former Scotland loose forward spent eight years in France, playing for Montpellier, Castres and Bayonne, captaining the latter to promotion from ProD2 into the Top 14.
In the column, Beattie takes aim at some of the presidents of the Top 14 clubs, including Mourad Boudjellal, whose investment in Toulon had the club signing a number of high-profile players and winning three European Cups on the trot between 2012 and 2015.
Players involved in Toulon at the time included former Springboks Botha, Danie Rossouw, Bryan Habana and Juan Smith, as well as ex-Wallabies Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell.
‘Boudjellal is, in fact, the perfect example of a president on an ego trip,’ Beattie wrote. ‘He did really well in comics, then invested in Toulon without actually creating anything – he just bought players and bought success. Now, supposedly, thirty-five of those same superstar players are taking him to court for non-payment of wages.
‘These are some of the biggest names to pass through Toulon, Top 14 winners and European champions. Several years after leaving the club, they claim to be missing vast chunks of salary owed.
‘From what I understand, the only guy among them who got paid in full is Bakkies Botha, having [allegedly] thundered into Boudjellal’s office and made the consequences of non-payment painfully clear – with the emphasis on painful.’
Beattie called upon his own experiences, when after leading Bayonne back into the Top 14, he received a phone call from the club’s president.
‘I can’t remember the exact words, but the gist of it went like this:
“You’re old, you don’t count towards our JIFF [French-raised] quota, we’re going to fire you. We need props for next year, so we’ve signed Census Johnston and given him your contract. We’re going to invent a faute grave [gross misconduct] incident so we can fire you, or you can accept a 30% payout and leave. If you want to go to court for your full contract, I hope you have enough money in the bank to pay for your wife, children and mortgage because it takes two years to get paid out by the courts. I hope you manage to survive. We don’t want you back for pre-season.”
‘That’s how you get treated after you’ve just won a title.’
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