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Lions circus turning into horror show


The absence of information will always lead to speculation, and whether it is fair or not, you would think that the Lions Rugby Union would have realised this after years of accusations of financial and administrative mismanagement.

The latest episode in the sorry saga is a public mud-slinging contest between the Lions former partners, GUMA Tac and Lions management.  The role players; Robert Gumede & Ivor Ichikowitz of GUMA Tac vs. Kevin de Klerk & Lions management.

Last week GUMA Tac announced its withdrawal from the Golden Lions Rugby Union which included taking their R80-million investment for 49.9% control which they had negotiated and announced with great fanfare a couple of months ago.

Currently, a lot of accusations are flying around, all mainly from the GUMA party who is accusing the Lions Rugby Union of ‘resisting change’.

The sorry state of affairs even prompted South African minister of Sport, Fikile Mbalula, to get involved through a statement in which he states that the failed partnership is a massive blow to rugby transformation.

Unfortunately the whole transformation and BEE angle towards the failed partnership are dominating the headlines in the media, whereas the failures of the Lions Rugby Union to adopt a more professional approach as a business should be of greater concern.

If you care to read between the lines, the GUMA group has basically accused the Lions of being happy to receive ‘BEE’ money, but as soon as they insisted in having a say how the money should be used or managed, they were shut out.

“Our walking away from this deal is not a racial issue,” Ichikowitz said in a report on NEWS24.

“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.”

It is a serious allegation which further fuels the belief that rugby in this country is administered and controlled by a select few who simply has no intention of transforming the game effectively but more importantly, relinquish any powers they currently enjoy within the inner-circles of SA Rugby.

It also suggest that transformation window dressing goes way beyond player representation on the field of play, where unions are quick to invite and partner with BEE companies but refuse to let them actively manage affairs within the organisation.

Most perplexing or even disappointing however, is the Lions refusal to publicly refute any of these claims where the best they could come up with is a statement issued on their website which basically states ‘they are not willing to comment’.

It is any organisations right to protect their personal financial affairs, but given the Lions recent history the damage of releasing such information against the damage they currently suffer by closing ranks and keeping quiet may be far greater.

For all we know, the GUMA group could by lying through their teeth, but if we have no way of judging the facts from both parties, it is all we have to go on and believe, and given the ‘trust’, or lack of it, the Lions have enjoyed from the rugby public over the last 5 years, they should know better than to think their word is good enough or should be followed with blind faith.

Lions management is meeting their sponsors on Tuesday to answer their questions and concerns, and one can only hope that following this meeting we will get greater clarity of the situation other than the rather useless public statement released last week.

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  1. My first post here. Aan almal daar by die huis: “Wees gegroet!”

    I agree 100% with the statements made by GumaTAC re the professional running of the GLRU. The GLRU is not run by professionals but by a mix of amateurs and semi-professionals with very little knowledge of running a successful business and brand. What makes the current events interesting however is that the Lions is probably the first union where professional businessmen with proven track records got the opportunity to see what goes on inside the engine of a local rugby union … and then got the shock of their lives. The way the GLRU is run may well be the standard for most rugby unions. The others just haven’t been forced by desperation to open themselves up for professional scrutiny.

    Rugby in SA in general is a volatile dangerous mix of amateurs and semi-professionals (very few true professionals running the game). This cannot go on. Pro rugby in SA is going to become road-kill when the truck comes. Pro rugby should be separated from amateur rugby and go into different directions. Pro then means pro in every sense. Amatateur then means amateur in every sense. And the two never mixes.

    That is how I see it. The GLRU is under the magnifying glass now, but the worms that are detected may well be all over SA rugby.

  2. The Lions was the first union to go “professional” (Pienaar, Le Roux, and the rest of that squad). Maybe the current mess at the Lions will force rugby in SA to go truly professional. Hopefully all the Lions vs GumaTAC crap that gets exposed will lead to a proper dissection and analysis of “pro” rugby in SA that can lead to a proper restructuring of the game. If the Lions must be the sacrifice that leads to true professionalism in rugby then let it be so … and I’m saying this as a passionate Lions supporter.

  3. Let me just correct something.

    The Lions management have not said “no comment”… they have categorically stated that they deny what GUMA says and added that they do not intend to comment further on the issue in public.

    Here is the full text:

    Lions refute ‘leak’ claims
    Johannesburg, 1 July 2011… The Golden Lions Rugby Union is looking forward with renewed vigour and excitement to the kick off of the 2011 Absa Currie Cup tournament on July 15, said Union president Kevin de Klerk on Friday. Mr De Klerk dismissed allegations, contained in a letter leaked to media, that the Union was unable to meet its current financial commitments.

    The document is a letter from Robert Gumede to me which reflects the opinions of one party,” said Mr De Klerk. “We obviously do not share the views of the author. It was a confidential letter to me that was leaked to the media and I am of the firm opinion that the correct forum for these matters to be addressed is not in public.

    “The letter contains untested claims and I can assure our supporters that the Golden Lions Rugby Union does not face bankruptcy – the very idea is news to us.

    “Our intentions have always been honourable in engaging with an equity partner and my objectives and views around identifying a BEE partner are well documented. We accepted an approach by Guma as a result of this. We will continue to act in an honourable way by not discussing commercially confidential matters in public.”
    “Suffice to say, we are already considering an offer from an alternative equity partner and can assure our supporters that the Lions’ 120-year legacy is not being compromised. The union has had its ups and downs over the years but I am confident that we can look forward to an outstanding Absa Curie Cup season and many more years of providing our fans and stakeholders with the brand of Lions rugby that they have come to enjoy.”

    Mr De Klerk said the Union would make no further comment on the claims or any new allegations. “We have a rugby business to run and a trophy to win and that is where we are now able to focus our energies,” he said.

    Puts a completely different view on “no comment” kak the Rapport and Saturday Star used on Saturday and Sunday to try and sell papers as their pathetic little businesses slowly fold into the silent flop of social media shitting on their graves…

  4. Reply to DavidS the sort of hopeful Lion @ 11:51 am:

    I read that statement, it is also included in the article (where you see the red text and by clicking on it take you directly to the website).

    But all that statement says, is we are not willing to discuss this matter in public.

    Fair enough, its their right. But they are not doing themselves any favours in light of some very damaging allegations levelled against them.

    Like I said, Guma might be lying through their teeth, but they are the only ones bringing information to this debate.

  5. Reply to DavidS the sort of hopeful Lion @ 11:53 am:

    kill the messenger? De Klerk may be self made but he still resembles old guard boeremag thinking yet he appears to be one of the good guys in the story (I remember Gumede saying De Klerk is onside but other blokes in the union are kicking against change).

    Too many oompies en tannies in charge there.

  6. Davis S, let’s look at Kevin and Manie. You say they are both professionals and self-made successful businessmen.

    Kevin is a self-made successful businessman that is in an amateur position as president if the Golden Lions.

    Manie is a full-time employee of the Golden Lions that should not be involved in running any other self-made successful business outside of the Golden Lions.

    You see the problems here?

    Should Kevin, the successful businessman, not be the CEO then? What successful business has Manie run before joining the Lions to be classified as “self-made successful businessman”?

    Successful businessman is the amateur president and the amateur is the professional CEO. That’s how I see it.

  7. When one looks back at the last 10 years of Lions rugby – since Mains left – all one see is a field of destruction.

    Andy Turner was blamed and fired. Several coaches were fired (long list, including Frans Ludeke). Jannie Ferreira was “fired”. When Mains left the whole union fell apart. Why did Mains leave? The real reasons should throw a light on what went wrong ever since. Ask Mains why the Lions fell apart.

    The Lions should have been named the Golden Vipers, because that would have been more accurate. Louis Luyt was worked out. Mains was worked out. And then all the wheels came off.

  8. Remember the Jannie Le Roux days of Transvaal Rugby? Nothing changed. Same old. It seems to be a Joburg thing. Luyt knew how to play the game and played it well. He was more street smart than the rest. He was The Don. The Don was assassinated and replaced with the little-Dom-donner mob that couldn’t manage the turf like the Doc did, but believed they could … and f-d everything up. Just my view.

  9. I will probably lose my virtual Platinum Golden Lions Super Trooper Club membership and will have to hand back the Supporter of the Month certificates for what I wrote here today. Ah well …

  10. Reply to Kat @ 12:45 pm:

    I met manie once during a Club game during that time when Solly Tsibilika did not pitch at training stating issues with the union.

    The game was at Wits and Solly pitched up and played for an eastern cape club side! I pointed to manie that the flanker for Roses united was in fact his Bok flank. He looked startled.

    After the game Solly went to the bar and had a beer. manuie just stood there at the fence – did not even go chat to the player.

    I thought “fuck what an amateur approach….”

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