The 2021 British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa could provide the local game with financial relief after the coronavirus pandemic, according to a WP board member.
Raymond van Niekerk, a member of the professional board of WP Rugby, spoke to Netwerk24 about how the upcoming series could boost South Africa financially.
Much like in the rest of the world, rugby in South Africa has been brought to a halt for the foreseeable future due to the spread of Covid-19.
There were plans to resurrect the 2020 Super Rugby season in a domestic season, but those have had to be shelved as South Africa undergoes a nationwide lockdown for the next three weeks.
‘If the Lions tour generates a lot of income then it could save the game in South Africa,’ Van Niekerk said.
‘Everyone in the game around the world is under pressure. If you get a big financial incentive, it will offer a golden opportunity to save the industry – which takes to heart the interests of the franchise teams, players, supporters and interested parties.’
It remains unclear when rugby will return in some form in South Africa, with the enforced break likely to have major financial implications for the already struggling rugby unions.
European clubs, especially those in England, have already indicated that board members, playing staff and management will have to take pay cuts in order to survive financially.
However, Van Niekerk said this is unlikely to happen in South Africa.
‘We’re not close to cutting players’ salaries. We have a good relationship with our players. The issue is nothing that they could have controlled.
‘There’s a big difference compared to overseas clubs who are privately owned. They move quickly and ruthlessly. We are more people-oriented because the provincial unions are involved. We want to limit the negative impact on players and personnel as much as possible.’
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