'Lions run like amateur union'

2011-07-02 14:03

Cape Town - One of the strongest statements made last year by Robert Gumede has come back to haunt him.

"Change in its nature brings fear to those who are in control," Gumede said when it was first announced that Guma and Trans African Capital (TAC) were negotiating a 49.9 percent stake in the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU).

At that stage the IT mogul was in good spirits, convinced that their involvement as equity partners with the union, and its struggling team, would break new ground in the transformation of rugby.

Eight months later, Gumede and his partner, Ivor Ichikowitz, insist that negotiations broke down this week due to resistance against change at the GLRU.

Ichikowitz said on Saturday that the transformation for which they had strived had less to do with race and more with the way in which the GLRU, as a business, was being run.

"Our walking away from this deal is not a racial issue, said Ichikowitz.

"It is simply that the Lions is not being run like a company; it is being run like an amateur union.

"Our goal was to change the way the business leg of the Lions was run with specific emphasis on marketing and management, or creating a brand all South Africans can identify with."

Prior to the arrival of the billionaire investors, the Lions had already started restructuring by firing some of their key decision makers.

First, in perhaps one of the most embarrassing moments in the union's 120-year history, coach Eugene Eloff was sacked in May 2009, a week before the Lions hosted the British and Irish Lions.

Then, the following month, long serving president Jannie Boshoff was asked to step down.

Like Eloff, who later spoke out about the union's poor administration, Gumede and Ichikowitz have voiced their disappointment.

Their concerns surfaced in a document signed by Gumede and Ichikowitz that was leaked to the media this week.

Some of the more serious allegations in the letter, addressed to GLRU president Kevin de Klerk, revolve around the management of the Lions' financial affairs.

Ichikowitz said they wished no further damage to the reputation of the GLRU.

"We don't want the Lions to suffer reputational damage," he said.

"We want the franchise to succeed with or without us."

Despite the public spat, Ichikowitz said they would continue to search for ways to get involved in the sport.

"We will not be walking away from rugby," he said.

"We still remain very committed to rugby as an opportunity to create a sport everybody subscribes to.

"Our passion for the Lions hasn't gone away either.

"The fact that the board and current management hasn't been able to see this through to conclusion doesn't mean that a future board and management won't see it differently."

Guma TAC are also not the first high-profile company to part ways with the Johannesburg rugby team.

The concerns with regards to the union's professionalism, voiced by Guma TAC, also surfaced when World Cup winning coach Jake White -- now the Brumbies head coach -- was employed as a consultant shortly after Eloff was replaced by Hans Coetzee.

White's company, Jake White's Winning Ways, believed the lack of cohesion between management and the coaching structures would always be an obstacle.

Current Lions coach John Mitchell has also, on multiple occasions, stressed a need for unity at the top before the results will start showing on the field.

The real tragedy, Gumede and Ichikowitz believe, is that the Lions have missed out on an opportunity to build a legacy that could have been used as a blueprint for transformation in other sporting codes.

"The reason we decided to get involved in the first place was to make rugby an all inclusive sport and not only the unique domain of a small group of the South African population," Ichikowitz said.

"Sure, Lions rugby has 120 years of history, but it's not all good history and they seem to be embracing the past rather than looking at how they can change and improve in the future.

"I really thought that South Africa, after 17 years of democracy, had come of age the day we announced this deal.

"I'm disappointed, gutted and emotionally hurt that my perception that South Africa was ready for a deal like this was incorrect."


  • Boerie - 2011-07-02 14:22

    So, what's the issue if race isn't? Looks like Lions have transformed like any other franchise, so what is the issue, too many coloureds or whites? Everything to do with "transformation" suggests something about race. What does Gumede and Ichi know about rugby and franchising anyway-they must go and learn at companies who have a share in Bulls, Saracens, Sharks, Stormers.

      johncarlos.biza - 2011-07-03 09:42

      They wanted to grow rugby(targeting blacks since there's no mo growth possible amongst whites) so that they get higher revenue(sponsorship, tv rights)

  • Marcell - 2011-07-02 14:28

    If it us not race then why mention it then?

      wesleywt - 2011-07-02 14:39

      Because you people will mention it.

      StaalBurgher - 2011-07-02 15:03

      Because it is in effect race. The blacks don't like the white culture and want to change everything to something with an African flavour. The idea of transformation for them is that all whites must let go of their culture, history etc and adopt theirs. That is when transformation ends, when the heritage and identity of the white population has been eradicated and have become indistinguishable from the rest of Africa. The irony in all of this is that in Europe it is the other way. Millions of £s and Euros are spent to help those minority cultures survive and not be assimilated. It is almost a sin to say that they must assimilate. Just look at the politicians that are taken to court for it. Here of course it is ok if they expect the minority to be completely assimilated and annihilated as a separate identity. The two situations are not the exact same of course, Europe is experience massive immigration and as such those minorities threaten to become majorities, whereas here the minority will be lucky to maintain a double digit % representation in the future. Such assimilation is not peaceful co-existence as that would entail more than one identity living next to each other. Of course there is no problem with some Unions being transformed which is why I had no problem with them initially wanting to invest. The rub comes in his statement "as a blueprint for transformation in other sporting codes". That exposes the ultimate plan; total annihilation of white heritage.

  • daniersa - 2011-07-02 15:29

    "We don't want the Lions to suffer reputational damage," he said... So why would they continue to only have these discussions in the media? And we all know how the media takes anything and makes it about everything. Sit down like grown-ups and discuss the matters at hand. No leaking emails and no mud-slinging. If there was once a single vision it can be rectified, using the media though will not help, especially after the Lions said they will concentrate on their core business without attacking the 2 gentleman from Guma.

  • Robnob - 2011-07-02 15:34

    It's ALWAYS a racial issue when something doesn't work, and apartheid will NEVER be over. The only reason Gumede has all this mo ey is because of his friendship with Zuma, maybe he should just save the money for the next fraud and corruption trial that JZ faces, the last R30m he gave to JZ is finished, time for some more.

  • Obama Bin Laden - 2011-07-02 16:11

    It's not racial. We just wanted to force you to make 75% of the team black. Definitely not racial, only whites are racial.

      Ja-swaer - 2011-07-04 09:38

      Your are the poison of this country.

  • Charlie - 2011-07-03 10:10

    Just once in my life I would like to hear the true story from the two parties. Two different perceptions perhaps, but the actual facts. Will that ever happen? Not in my lifetime.

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