Vodacom Bulls CEO Alfonso Meyer says Mamelodi Sundowns owner Patrice Motsepe’s buy-in could lead to an integration between the two fan bases. 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%.
Motsepe is also the owner of South African football team Mamelodi Sundowns and has taken the club to new heights since first buying into the Pretoria-based team in 2003.
The Bulls’ relationship with Sundowns was brought to the fore when they unveiled a third kit which was dedicated to the soccer team during the 2018 Super Rugby season.
Meyer, who took over as Bulls chief executive at the beginning of this year, told SARugbymag.co.za that he hopes the deal can lead to a strengthening of relationships between the two franchises.
‘We started to talk about the broader picture,’ Meyer said. ‘Mamelodi Sundowns have been playing a number of games at Loftus. But it was really a year-on-year contract with Mamelodi. We felt, and I also think this is Patrice’s vision, that there is a much bigger picture here.
‘If you take Loftus as a venue or as an asset, it needs to work for us or else we can’t make money. From rugby alone, we cannot. So there are three components to it, there is obviously rugby, then there is soccer and finally other events.
‘The new deal will also mean that Loftus Versfeld will become Mamelodi Sundowns’ home base, for both local and international matches.‘
Meyer said he hoped for integration between the two fan bases and they are in the process of working on ideas to make it possible.
‘Through the deal, it will also make sense that we will have a long-term contract in place now. We started talking three or four months ago. We shared the vision that there is a much bigger picture.
‘If you look at the Blue Bulls Company and Mamelodi Sundowns, we can use the deal as a base. Then we can integrate fan bases, we can cross-sell suites between soccer and rugby fans. What we found in the past year anyway, is that more and more soccer fans are buying suites at Loftus. We can expand that into season tickets … there are so many opportunities to integrate the fan bases.
‘I have a dream for next year, and maybe that is too short notice, but could you imagine Mamelodi Sundowns playing Barcelona at Loftus at 4pm and then a one-hour break and then you have the Bulls playing Saracens at 6pm. Then we will attract a full stadium. We will integrate the fans in a very physical way. That would be a double-header everybody would want to see. That is just one example of integrating the fan bases.
‘The other thing is that we can take sport to the communities far better as a joint force. What we will have to do more is take the Bulls to the communities. We need to put more effort into that in the new year. With Patrice on the board, that will be easier to understand and to execute.
‘We have already started talks about transport. That is a physical and logistical problem. We reduced tickets this year with that “Duane Vermeulen special”, but you can’t go any lower than R20 per ticket. We will continue those specials.
‘But what we need to see is how we get those supporters from the townships to Loftus. At the end of the day, they do it for soccer. The transport systems through taxis are already in place. There was a full stadium the other day when Kaizer Chiefs were here. So it is possible. But we need a mindset change to integrate the sports. Those plans will need to be fleshed out in a bit more detail.’
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