As this Kings saga continues to unfold I am rather surprised by all the media reports stating that the Kings are currently the only franchise guaranteed of a spot in next year’s competition, with one of the remaining 5 having to make way for them.
It is not that I don’t understand these reports, I just cannot believe that people are so gullible!
Not soon after we heard that the general council voted unanimously for the Kings inclusion, a letter from the current five franchises surfaced in the media soon afterwards stating that; “None of the existing franchises shall be prejudiced by such inclusion [of the Kings] in any way whatsoever; none of the existing franchises shall be eliminated from the tournament in 2013 or at any stage thereafter as a result of the inclusion of the Kings.”
This prompted SA Rugby to hastily try and arrange a meeting with their SANZAR partners (New Zealand and Australia) to propose a change in the current format to include a 6th South African franchise – a suggestion shot down numerous times by NZAR stating there can be no change in the current, 15-team conference format until 2015 when the broadcast deal comes to an end.
The meeting (scheduled for some time in March) of course also never took place, as the delegation selected to present the case felt they did not have enough information to present a good case.
It has now been reported that SA Rugby has advised the current 5 franchises, as-well as the Kings, that a meeting will take place between all the parties to try and sort this mess out later this month. Exactly what the outcome of this meeting will be is anyone’s guess as there was no agenda attached to the email by SA Rugby sent to the unions.
Readers of this site might understand why all of this has a very familiar look and feel to it…
When we started out here at RuggaWorld one of the hottest topics was that of the Southern Spears, the Kings you know now in all but name. Their CEO at the time, Tony McKeever, was well known to many on this site and he even posted his own comments, thoughts and news here. And it is what unfolded in 2005 through to 2006 (and many years following) that has me thinking SA Rugby (who still has the same President in place since the 2005 fiasco) will again somehow find a way to screw the Kings over.
The believe currently in the Kings ‘guaranteed’ participation in 2013 is based on the fact that the general council voted unanimously in favour of this in January this year. To me personally, that means about as much as what my horoscope tells me every morning in the paper… Let me explain.
In June of 2005 SA Rugby not only voted unanimously for the Spears entrenchment in the Currie Cup Premier division of 2006, but also guaranteed Super Rugby participation in 2007 and 2008 in addition to financially assist them up to then (Super Rugby inclusion) and find them sponsors.
This went further where this decision was ratified in December of 2005 culminating in the Spears actually signing a franchise participation agreement in 2006! But wait, there is more (as they would say on Verimark)! This agreement itself was found valid in a court of law in June 2006 when a judge ruled that the agreement was binding and that SA Rugby should make good on their promises.
Of course what followed was some of the best back-hand dealings to dissolve the Spears but that is another story. The point here is; a silly vote recorded in the minutes of a SARU general council meaning which for some reason have most believing the Kings are ‘guaranteed’ participation in 2013 means absolutely nothing in my view.
As in 2006, none of the current 5 franchises will back down and give up millions of Rands of income from a share of the broadcasting deal not to mention the sponsorship money they get from just playing in the competition. If you don’t believe me, read the letter they sent to SA Rugby following the meeting in January to include the Kings.
The problem SA Rugby sits with is the criteria they will use in order to eliminate any of the current 5 teams. More than half-way through the season a decision that the ‘lowest’ ranking franchise is to get the boot will see a ton of litigation thrown in the direction of SA Rugby. A decision to play a promotion/relegation match will not fly with the Kings who with their current player resources cannot make it past the quarter finals of the Vodacom Cup.
Another option could be to institute a condition to have all franchises comply with a minimum financial reserve in order to qualify for a franchise license (which are up for grabs at the end of this year actually) but that will also be a hard sell given the Kings themselves might not be much better off financially than the Lions.
You see boys and girls, when it comes down to it I see the same gutless approach by SA Rugby now which I did in 2006. They are quite simply incapable of making tough decisions and would rather try and play a situation out than take responsibility for it. And they are solely responsible for this mess using the Kings or Eastern Cape region as their banner whenever they try and win favour with government or government backing for something (like a Rugby World Cup bid).
I feel for the Kings, I really do. SA Rugby owes them this – but like the Spears in 2006, they will too not see the light of Super Rugby, at least not in 2013. At least they were Kings for a day in January…