Hope for EP players

Unpaid EP Kings players have come to an arbitration agreement with the EPRU, part of which states that overdue salaries must be paid out by 31 January. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

A host of EP players have not received payments as far back as last September in some cases, leading them to seek legal recourse and cancel their contracts as a result of the Kings’ repudiation.

After various meetings between the legal teams representing EP Rugby and the players, a signed agreement was reached last Friday, which has subsequently been made an arbitration award by judge Frank Kroon.

‘This agreement includes the payment of all outstanding salaries by 31 January, which date back three or four months depending on the player,’ Craig Jessop, the lawyer representing the players, confirmed to SARugbymag.co.za.

'In addition to giving effect to payment of arrear salaries by 31 January, EP Rugby shall pay damages to each player by way of monthly instalments for a period of five months, commencing [from the] end of February. The payment per month for the period of the five months shall be the average of the players' salary between their 2016 rate of pay and 2017 rate of pay. The priority at this point is for players to continue receiving payments until June/July when the market opens for teams looking to sign players.'

Should players take up contracts elsewhere, those earnings will be subtracted from EP rugby's damages payout and not the arrears as part of a ‘mitigation of loss’ compromise that was reached.

It’s been reported that EP Rugby’s backpay to as many as 18 players could total up to R12-million, but considering EP's dire financial situation, there appears to be no guarantee that the payments will be made as per the agreement.

'We have reached an understanding and we hope that the undertakings are met and payments are made in terms of the arbitration award,' Jessop commented. ‘If there is a breach, my instruction is to begin a process of liquidation.’

The EPRU and EP Kings are being run as a separate entity to the Southern Kings Super Rugby franchise, the control and ownership of which has been taken over by Saru.

Jessop said that the players reserve the right to institute legal action against the new Super Rugby entity to the extent necessary.

Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis