Cape Town – Two Springbok front-rankers with expertise in
the financial services industry, Keith Andrews and Cobus Visagie, have added
their voices to concern over the monetary crisis in WP Rugby.
Sport24 reported exclusively last week that Newlands-based
WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd was in financial meltdown – it has already projected to make
a loss of more than R11-million for the year, and is being sued by Aerios,
holders of the commercial rights of the union.
They allege that WP Rugby unlawfully entered into a
sponsorship agreement with DHL, currently headline sponsors of Newlands and the
Stormers/WP, in 2013 without their consent, and seek immediate payment in the
vicinity of R72-million over advertising rights sold “to third parties”.
Andrews, who made nine Bok appearances between 1992 and 1994
and played his entire provincial career at Newlands, said the ructions sent out
a bad message to sponsors and other corporate backers.
“You have to wonder what the auditors feel over the state of
affairs; there’s going to have to be a lot of clever spinning,” said Andrews,
director at Personal Trust financial solutions firm in Cape Town.
“Will (WP) still be
considered to have a sustainable business model? Players are also bound to be
thinking ‘will I be paid in a year’s time?’ … they’ve been selling off assets
over the last couple of years.
“Then you have to question, given the current situation,
whether they have the (boardroom) expertise to see the difficult period
through. It is a worrying position, and sponsors will be nervous.”
Andrews said the fact
that neither of the Super Rugby or Currie Cup teams at Newlands were winning
consistently impeded matters further.
“It’s clear they are not getting the same volume of bums on
seats as they used to; you get good cash flow when your teams are doing well –
we have seen that in the Lions’ (revival) in Johannesburg.
“People have been coming back (to Emirates Airline Park),
and they have astute boardroom leadership with Kevin de Klerk as president.
“I played a lot of my rugby in the time just before the full
switch to professionalism, but even then at Newlands we had historically proven
business people in the senior positions at WP, who made the books balance: Jan
Pickard was president in a hugely successful era and then you had someone like
Ronnie Masson as president – he was very senior at Sanlam.”
Andrews said he felt for someone like Robbie Fleck, the
Stormers head coach who took over at short notice after the Eddie Jones
in-and-out fiasco earlier this year.
“There’s a crucial, challenging year coming up for Fleckie,
and I am glad they didn’t kick him out. Still, your gut feel tells you it will
be difficult for them to convert (to renewed success) … a lot of players have
moved on and there can’t be much in the kitty for recruitment of decent
Visagie, who represented WP and/or the Stormers between 1996
and 2003 and earned 29 Bok caps, took to Facebook to express his feelings,
singling out now-retired chief executive Rob Wagner – he stepped down earlier
this year – for the bulk of criticism.
“That’s what happens when a biology teacher manages a
multi-million rand business … I have long predicted this (financial turmoil),”
said Visagie, a chartered accountant and director at London-based AMC Trade
“For long, Rob Wagner claimed the Currie Cup successes of 1997,
2000 and 2001 for himself, despite having nothing to do with it.
“The WP Union sold more than R100-m of assets during his
tenure as CEO to balance the books. It’s a disgrace what he and the inept bunch
over there achieved in the last 15 years.”
*WP Rugby has not replied to a series of questions posed to
it by email by Sport24 last week.
*Follow our chief
writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing