Johannesburg - The Golden Lions Rugby Union faces a tough, telling seven days that could well determine the future of the once-proud union in the coming few years, reports SuperSport.com.
While their team made a good start in their defence of the Currie Cup title, the administration will be on tenterhooks this coming week as both the results of a lengthy arbitration process with franchise partners the Leopards and Pumas draws to an end, while on Thursday the Lions should know if they will be a Super Rugby franchise in 2013 or not.
The impact of both results will not only have a massive financial impact for the Lions, their players and fans, but also have an impact on their reputation as a franchise, their continued support in the Super Rugby series, including sponsorships and other related activities.
However, after several years of being the whipping boys of Super Rugby, and some inept financial management in the franchise, at least whatever the outcome, the once-proud Rugby union can finally know where it stands and move on.
Having secured contracts with the majority of their Currie Cup squad for 2013, the Lions are hopeful that a positive outcome will be in the offing on Thursday, especially as SARU’s General Council has balked on making a final decision for next season’s Super Rugby participants, despite declaring more than once that the EP Kings would participate in Super Rugby in 2013.
The decision has been postponed several times, with the likely losers being the Lions if the Kings do play Super Rugby next year, although there has been little clarity as well about how long such a situation would last and what promotion/relegation prospects there would be, if any.
With governing body SANZAR reiterating they would not be willing to look at a sixth South African franchise before 2015, the Lions have called on the situation to be sorted out until that date, and not just a one-season deal as many expect to happen.
But the waters have become murky with reports last month of a deal between the South African Rugby Union and the Kings, to futher develop the Kings for a later entry into the Southern Hemisphere competition, something both parties have actively denied.
Lions Acting CEO Ruben Moggee is in an unenviable position of having to try and sort out the Lions financial mess, with the sword of Damocles hanging over his head in terms of tournament participation, and is hoping for a positive outcome this week.
“We think it is definitely very important for a decision to be made, and for SARU to stick to it,” Moggee told SuperSport.com,
“And whatever the outcome, for us to have finality about the future. It has been very difficult for us to run the business and contract our players and to motivate them with such an uncertain future lying ahead of us.
“We have heard stories about possible deals, but whatever they were, unfortunately such negotiations were done without us and any agreements would be solely between the Kings and SA Rugby. We will patiently await the meeting, we have given our submissions to SARU as to why we should stay a Super Rugby franchise and we know they have evaluated them. Hopefully we will have our answer soon. But whatever the answer is, we need it to go beyond just 2013, and rather as a decision that will bind all parties until 2015 when the next SANZAR contract will be negotiated.”
The other massive decision that will take place within the next seven days is the results of the arbitration between the Lions and their franchise partners, the Leopards and Pumas. The other two franchises claim they are owed amounts totaling R6m as their percentage share in the profits of the Super Rugby franchise, something the Lions have never paid.
The Lions in turn deny this, saying there was never a franchise agreement, and now that the arguments have been given in the arbitration hearing a result is expected either late this week or early next week.
Either way the Lions have again said they would love to have finality as - as Moggee puts it - “there are enough challenges to contend with elsewhere”.
“We have to hand in our final answers today and perhaps by Friday or Monday we will have a verdict. We’re hopeful, but as soon as clever lawyers are involved, you never know. It is also about a decision that was in 2006 where none of the current parties were involved, but we are confident,” Moggee added.
“We want to move forward and want this matter finalised and will bind ourselves by the arbitration’s findings, whatever they are.”
Either way things will be tense at the headquarters this week. The Lions are in a fight for survival and they know it. This week could well determine the outcome of that fight.