UK firm to rescue EPRU?

A business rescue plan for the cash-strapped Eastern Province Rugby Union has revealed a UK company is willing to invest R100-million over the next few years to bail out the beleaguered union. CRAIG LEWIS reports.

Subject to the rescue plan being accepted, London-based sports marketing company Integrated Sport has indicated that it would invest R20-million a year up to a total of R100-million as part of a long-term business plan.

The proposed investment not only includes this multi-million rand cash injection, but plans to put structures in place that aim to ensure the cash-strapped union becomes a viable and profitable entity.

The EPRU has been beset by financial woes for over a year, and fallen into millions of rand of debt, with SA Rugby forced to take control of the Southern Kings Super Rugby franchise before also adopting administrative control of the EPRU.

In March, the EPRU and its professional arm, EP Rugby (Pty) Ltd, were placed under provisional liquidation, and given until 10 May to settle the outstanding debts or face the prospect of the order becoming final. However, court proceedings were then postponed to 31 May in order for a business rescue application to be prepared.

Just before the deadline arrived, EPRU’s lawyers submitted the rescue plan, which now needs to be agreed upon by all the parties.

It’s believed EPRU president Cheeky Watson could step down from his position once the business rescue plan is in place.

As part of the joint liquidation application that was brought against the EPRU earlier this year, 36 players have sought to reclaim over R12m that is said to be owed in terms of salary arrears and other damages.

Should the rescue plan be accepted, it now remains to be seen what portion of the investment would go towards settling the unpaid salaries owed to players.

Lawyer Craig Jessop, representing the players, told that they were now reviewing the ins and outs of the business rescue plan.

‘The application was received yesterday evening, and we are now considering the contents of that application. We will be consulting our clients and the interested parties, and until that time, I can comment no further.’

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Craig Lewis