On the 6th of November EP Rugby released in a statement that their President Cheeky Watson is overseas to meet with sponsors over delayed payments of salaries, after news surfaced for the umpteenth time in the media about financial issues within the Union.
Former coach Carlos Spencer announced in July that he has decided to part ways with the Kings after salary agreements have not been met, this was followed a few months later by the players as they in return threatened to strike in the midst of their Currie Cup campaign over unpaid salaries.
After months of uncertainty whether salaries will be payed on time and an even bigger media interest in Watson’s promised sponsorship, Sub Union Chairman Vernon Stuurman said, “we understand the frustrations over the delays but we also understand that there are significant challenges when dealing with such a huge sum of money.” He also added the funding would be a game changer for both the professional body as well as the union.
News kept on surfacing about outstanding salaries to players and staff while Watson was overseas to bring an end to the union’s cash flow problems.
In a statement from EP Rugby on the 12th of November it was said, these cash flow problems can be attributed to significant delays in the release of funds from a sponsorship deal that was originally announced by EP Rugby President, Cheeky Watson. As stated previously, Mr Watson is currently in Australia to meet with sponsors to try and expedite the release of these funds.
Meanwhile, SARPA advised players that EP Rugby is in breach of contract, due to non payment of salaries as of the 10th of November, and have advised that players can therefore terminate their contracts.
Shortly after, Tim Whitehead left the Kings and opened the door for talented players like Lizo Gpoboka, Tim Agaba, Luther Obi and Sylvian Mahuza to follow.
With all this uncertainty of whether there is even a sponsor and the ongoing unpaid player salaries, EP Rugby confirmed nine new players who joined their pre-season training squad for the upcoming Super Rugby season. The new faces include former EP Kings, Southern Kings and Sharks fullback SP Marais, former Bulls players Jurgen Visser and Louis Fouche, former Pumas Stefan Watermeyer and JC Roos, former Cheetahs players Carel Greeff and Caylib Oosthuizen, former Sharks and Lions outside back Mark Richards and former Western Force and Edinburgh hooker James Hilterbrand.
EP Rugby also stated that Watson will address the media on his return to Port Elizabeth to clarify the financial situation.
There has been no word from Watson since he arrived back in the country, but rather a press release from SARU on Tuesday the 17th of November that stated they agreed to assist the Eastern Province Rugby Union by taking control of the Southern Kings franchise in Vodacom Super Rugby.
The action followed through a decision taken by the Executive Council of SARU some weeks ago to step into the Kings’ affairs if certain expectations were not realised. The decision was actioned as a result of the on-going cash flow problems at the Union after the president of EP Rugby, Mr Cheeky Watson, contacted Mr Oregan Hoskins, the president of SARU, to ask him to assist.
“We gave the Kings as long as possible to resolve their issues through their own efforts but the point had been reached where they could wait no longer,” said Mr Oregan Hoskins, president of SARU.
“It is a decision we have had to take reluctantly but it is now 102 days until Vodacom Super Rugby moves into a new era with new teams and new nations taking part and we collectively agreed we could not allow South Africa’s new entrant to be under-prepared.
With so many empty promises over the last few months and the inability to secure a sponsor, would it not have been in SARU’s best interest if they want to see the Southern Kings succeed in Super Rugby to offer their help to assist by asking Watson to step down? Is this just a short term solution to a long term problem, or does SARU not want EP Rugby to become their problem?
Written by Pierre Mc Leod