Mayor wants 'rethink' from WP

2011-11-16 13:40
Cape Town - Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has urged Western Province Rugby Union president Theuns Roodman to renew talks about rugby matches at Cape Town Stadium.

She did so by letter, after the union refused to allow a European Heineken Cup game to be played between English club Saracens and French club Bairritz at Cape Town Stadium in January next year.

"To date, the city and Western Province Rugby have had several technical discussions aimed at paving the way for formal discussions to commence," De Lille wrote.

"These have been productive and cordial, with both parties knowing full well that their principals are the final authority in taking decisions.

"In light of the genial relationship that has pervaded to date, I would like to engage with you and your management team with a view to lifting your suspension and recommencing talks with the city."

The union said in a statement on Tuesday that the historic match would instead be staged at Newlands Stadium.

The International Rugby Board, European Rugby Competitions, the Rugby Football Union of England, and the SA Rugby Union, had all supported playing the match at Cape Town Stadium.

The provincial union said it welcomed the match, which would form part of the 2012 Super Rugby and international Test schedule at Newlands Stadium.

It scotched speculation that Western Province rugby intended relocating to the Cape Town Stadium.

Newlands, which first hosted an official match in 1890, holds 45 000 fans, while the new Cape Town Stadium, a host venue for the 2010 Fifa World Cup, has a capacity of 55 000.

However, the home of Western Province rugby boasts 300 hospitality suites compared with 100 at the newly-built venue.

The Cape Town Stadium, which will reportedly cost taxpayers R44.6 million this financial year, has been used sparingly since the country hosted the global football showpiece in June and July 2010.

Premiership soccer team Ajax Cape Town have played nine league games at the stadium this year.

Four international artists performed concerts at the venue in 2011, and an international friendly soccer match was held at the stadium in January.

De Lille said the city had entered into negotiations with Saracens chief executive Edward Griffiths, to assess the viability of different commercial models which would underpin the hosting of the match at the stadium.

"Before concluding on a firm offer, the city requested confirmation that the international and South African rugby authorities had endorsed the match," she said.

"Edward Griffiths reverted, confirming that the International Rugby Board and South African Rugby Union had indeed sanctioned the match."

The city was informed that Saracens had taken a business decision to locate the match at the Cape Town Stadium.

A public announcement about the upcoming match was then hosted at the stadium.

De Lille said the city was aware that Saracens had engaged with the provincial union on the hosting of the match.

It had also come to the city's attention that Rob Wagner, from the union's commercial wing, had been informed of the outcome of Saracens' decision to host the match at the Cape Town Stadium.

From a business and destination marketing perspective, the Cape Town Stadium welcomed Saracens' decision, De Lille said.

"At no stage did we intend to dishonour our ongoing and amicable discussions with you by entering into a commercially viable agreement with Saracens," she said.

"I am aware that the Saracens decision may have had unintended consequences (ie negative reactions from your stakeholders). This was never our intention. Nor was it an attempt to pre-empt any decision of a move of Western Province rugby to the Cape Town Stadium."

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