• Kings stalwart: Liquidation has felt like a ‘sneak attack’

    Kings stalwart Schalk Ferreira says there has to be accountability and answers from SA Rugby following the liquidation of the Kings. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

    On Saturday, it was confirmed that the board of SA Super Rugby (Pty) Ltd – which trades as the Southern Kings – had placed the insolvent company in voluntary liquidation to ‘secure the longer-term financial future of rugby in Eastern Province’.

    The shareholders – the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) and SA Rugby – were stated to have taken the decision in the face of an accumulated deficit of R55 million, and with zero income in prospect for the remainder of 2020.

    ‘The hard fact is that the Kings are insolvent, with significant debts and zero assets and it would have been reckless of the board to continue to trade,’ said Andre Rademan, chairman of the board.

    Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, added that extending additional credit to an insolvent entity at a time when the rugby industry is required to make a saving of R1.2bn to stay afloat this year was not an option.

    SA Rugby resumed ownership of a 74% shareholding in the Kings in June following the failure of the previous owners – the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (GRC) – to honour contractual commitments in relation to its purchase of the shares.

    The GRC had acquired the shareholding in January 2019 but was unable to deliver on the promised turnaround strategy.

    The Kings’ struggle to build a sustainable business model had twice seen it fall into management control by SA Rugby.

    Commenting on the latest developments, Ferreira – who is the most-capped Kings player of all time – said the latest news of liquidation had come like a bombshell.

    ‘It’s been really tough, this is the second time this has happened, and I don’t just believe it’s the GRC who should be held responsible. SA Rugby has also played down responsibility, but I don’t think there was due diligence to see if they [GRC] could run our company and if there were enough finances.’

    Ferreira added that a representative from SA Rugby had previously visited the Kings and implied the Port Elizabeth-based side was not likely to fall out of the PRO14, but this is now all but certain to take place.

    Furthermore, Ferreira said Rademan has suggested the Kings’ withdrawal from Currie Cup competition was in order to avoid incurring further costs, and to hopefully ensure that contractual payments could be met.

    ‘It’s felt like a sneak attack in the sense that we were promised that our contracts would be honoured, but then this past weekend we heard there were going to be no payments. It’s been sudden and tough. First we heard that we’re out of PRO14 and then out of the Currie Cup, some guys have two or three years contracts left. It’s very sad.’

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    Craig Lewis