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.