Former Lions and Saru boss Dr Louis Luyt predicted they would have to go into liquidation to stop the rot.
Brenden Nel, SuperSport
Luyt, who built the Lions — then Transvaal — into a multi-million rand empire and retired in 2000, leaving them financially sound, uttered his disbelief at the current state of affairs to internet station Ballz radio.
According to Luyt, when he retired the Lions had “R85-million in cash reserves and no debt” — a far cry from the R80-million in the red that the Guma group claimed in court papers against the Lions earlier this year.
The Times reported a transcript of Luyt’s comments, where he predicted the Lions would go into liquidation soon.
The Lions were ousted out of the Super Rugby competition by a Saru general council decision last week and then lost an arbitration hearing. On top of this they have a disciplinary hearing pending against their coach John Mitchell and another outstanding court case pending with former coach Dick Muir.
“It’s not a question of what’s happened to the Golden Lions Rugby Union but rather a question of why people allowed it to happen,” Luyt told internet radio station Ballz radio.
“The brand was fantastic and in 1996 when we signed the Murdoch agreement (which funded Super Rugby and the Tri-Nations), according to the people I dealt with the finest union in the world was the Transvaal Rugby Union, which is now the GLRU.
“With all due respect, how can you let a fantastic union like the Lions go down the drain like they did? I can only assume that people who were in charge didn’t know what they were doing and what rugby was about.
“The money was there. But somehow or other the decision was made to use the money for junior rugby and other poor business decisions.”
WHERE IS THE MONEY?
Luyt said the Lions are now “technically bankrupt”.
“There was no plan, no bloody plan. What the hell did they do all that time?
“Where is the money? How the hell can you lose that much money? It’s there to be invested and earn more money. You lose it only if you’re stupid enough to lose it,” he said. “I’ll tell you one thing, if the GLRU owes more money than it can pay, it will have to go into liquidation.
“It’s painful for me to contemplate that it could be sequestrated and closed down because it was the finest and strongest union in the world not so long ago.”
Luyt urged the Lions to put egos aside and find good investors to save the union.
“This crisis can be solved but it will require clear heads and no egos. I would find good investors and they could rebuild the Lions to its former glory. No one’s asked me to help and I don’t know if I could, but there are people out there who can help.”
After being excluded from Super Rugby, the Lions lost their arbitration hearing with the Leopards and Pumas, having to cough up R2.565-million to the Leopards for unpaid franchise fees and the possibility of another R6.6-million to still be decided. But Luyt has his doubts they can even keep this obligation.
“I don’t know how they are going to pay that money because they don’t have it.”