Vodacom Bulls CEO Alfonso Meyer says the new private ownership deal will give the franchise a much-needed injection of funds and allow for work on Loftus Versfeld. DYLAN JACK reports.
The much-talked about and anticipated deal between Johann Rupert’s Remgro and billionaire Patrice Motsepe’s African Rainbow Capital was unanimously concluded two weeks ago at a meeting held at Loftus Versfeld.
The new structure will mean that existing shareholders Remgro and the Blue Bulls Rugby Union (BBRU), who look after the amateur side of the game, reduce their previously equal percentage of shareholding from 50% each to 37% and 26%, respectively, allowing Motsepe to buy and own the remaining 37%.
Meyer, who took over as Bulls chief executive at the beginning of this year, told SARugbymag.co.za the injection of funds will allow the Bulls to survive during an era where the South African franchises are struggling economically, while it will provide for a much-needed update of Loftus Versfeld.
‘When I got to the Bulls I put a strategy together and a business plan. I saw that we did not have any other option other than to get an external equity partner into the business with Remgro.
‘There are two issues,’ Meyer said. ‘All the rugby franchises are making losses. Accumulated losses have been building up over the past six years or so. To the extent that we are running into overdraft. The financing costs are enormous. To get out of that financial and operational hole, we needed a capital injection. That is about a third of the issue.
‘The second issue is around Loftus Stadium. The last time a proper refurbishment was done was around 2013, when they lifted the concrete. We have had two engineering reports in the last few months, basically confirming that we had to do a lot of work on the steel structures. We are calling it a steel rehabilitation project, which will take between the next 18 months to two years. We needed additional capital because that is quite expensive. We cannot fund it from our own sources.
‘We will also look at other projects, like the big screens which are basically 10 years old now. That is old technology. We need to offer a better experience to our fans. The new screens are much improved on the old ones in terms of technology and quality. They are also cheaper.
‘We also want to look at the electricity infrastructure. It is not a big issue but it does need to be sorted out to make sure that when we do host big events, that there will always be electricity. We will also look at getting in a diesel generator for backup.
‘Most people think that we are going to buy more players,’ Meyer added. ‘But from a SA Rugby point of view, we are under this new contracting model. We are capped in terms of salaries. The number of players is 45 and the salary cap is R60 million. So it is not really to do with that side of things.’
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