Former Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) president Zelt Marais has hit out at SA Rugby in a letter for assuming administrative control of the union.
SA Rugby invoked its constitutional power to take administrative control of the WPRFU, which controls 100% of its commercial arm, Western Province Professional Rugby.
Experienced former SA Rugby CEO Rian Oberholzer was appointed as an administrator and has assumed oversight of the union’s affairs.
The decision was made as Western Province were reportedly on the brink of a financial collapse, facing liquidation and forfeiting their assets worth millions.
Marais had been accused of deliberately stalling potential equity deals – with MVM Holdings, who have invested in the Sharks, and an unnamed Hong Kong-based firm – for the past six months and of centralising all power in his position.
However, in a letter addressed to SA Rugby and the WPRFU, Marais insisted that SA Rugby has no “justifiable grounds” for invoking the clause to take control of the WPRFU.
“The intervention of Saru by invoking Clause 29.5 was seen by me as a blessing in disguise in order to somehow bring stability to an embattled Executive Committee of the WPRFU. I, however, then and now was of the view that no substantive reasons and grounds existed for so invoking Clause 29.5,” wrote Marais.
“That is, that there were no legal and/or justifiable grounds for so invoking the said clause. One of the basic reasons for believing so was that prior to the invocation of the said clause a joint advisory sub-committee was set up comprising members of both Saru and WPRFU for the purpose of considering ways and means of getting WPRFU out of the minor financial woes it was facing at the time and also considering the number of deals on the table relating to equity in properties owned by the WPRFU.”
Marais went on to defend the WPRFU and said that he felt SA Rugby never put its full support behind the union.
“WPRFU has an excellent record in terms of transformation, if not the best, and the feeling has emerged that possibly WPRFU is not enjoying the full support of Saru and its benefactors because of the level of transformation it has achieved. Be that as it may, it turned out that the aforementioned joint advisory committee did not act prudently and timeously as to ensure that the aforesaid deals could be satisfactorily concluded in order to avoid a financially embarrassing scenario for WPRFU.
“This both mystified and angered me as I felt that Saru was not really trying to assist the union in its trying times.
“By appearing to allow WPRFU to languish in its problems Saru then took a decision to invoke Clause 29.5. Fortuitously, after the invocation of Clause 29.5 Saru was able to come to the financial assistance of the union and make funds available to address the union’s short-term financial problems. Clearly, Saru should have adopted the stance that it would assist WPRFU with the aforesaid problems prior to placing it under administration, thereby avoiding a scenario that would hurt the union, as it is presently doing.”
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