Players call for Cheeky to quit

EP Kings players have issued a vote of no confidence in Cheeky Watson, calling for him to step down from his post as EPRU president. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

Certain players met on Friday night and issued a statement titled ‘One team’, which calls for Watson to be held accountable for the financial crisis at the Kings that has seen players and staff go unpaid for months.

‘The EP Kings players have no confidence in Cheeky Watson, we feel he is no longer fit to hold office and as such needs to step down or be removed with immediate effect,’ the players' statement read.

In November, Watson said he had no intention of stepping down, but the Kings president has come under mounting pressure at a time when Saru was forced to step in and take control of the Super Rugby franchise.

Players have become increasingly outspoken, which has seen a couple of anonymous players post emotional statements of discontent and concern on Facebook. Meanwhile, Watson is understood to have escaped a vote of no confidence from clubs in the Eastern Cape region when the annual general meeting was recently postponed.

During Friday's players meeting, a petition calling for Watson to be held accountable was apparently drawn up and signed, which will be presented to EP Rugby.

Although Saru has taken control of the Southern Kings franchise, it is being run as a separate entity to the Eastern Province Rugby Union and the EP Kings, over whose affairs or operations Saru has no bearing.

Only 22 of the planned 42-player squad are set to be contracted for the Southern Kings’ campaign, with the other half expected to come from the existing EP Kings squad. It’s believed the selected players will need to sign and negotiate new contracts as part of the Super Rugby set-up, while their current contracts with EP Rugby will become null and void.

With the cash-strapped EPRU still responsible for the salaries of a large portion of players, it’s understandable that some have expressed concerns over their future financial security.

‘We also have no confidence in the Saru plan as this will only cater to a very small percentage of current Kings players,’ the statement further declared.

Watson is understood to be aware of the statement, but a spokesperson for the Kings said they would not comment until the matter had been looked into.

South African Rugby Players’ Association spokesperson Nyaniso Sam said they were looking to communicate directly with the players about the latest developments.

On Friday, Saru said that the players and management would be paid next week, although the position of players not contracted to the Southern Kings by Saru remained a question to be resolved by the EPRU.

Details around which members of the Kings’ staff will be paid, and by whom, are expected to be finalised as part of the logistical planning next week.

Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis