Financially embattled Western Province Rugby have a new quandary on their hands as their decades-long kit sponsorship with sports clothing giant adidas is to be terminated, writes Sport24
On Friday, adidas (South Africa) sports marketing manager Howard Kahn told Sport24: “The current contract between WP and adidas ends on October 31 and we are in discussions with the union.”
But Sport24 understands from other sources that resumption of the relationship – one that began well over 30 years ago during WP’s record Currie Cup-winning heyday of the mid-1980s – is highly unlikely.
The development comes hot on the heels of the news very recently that Remgro, the investment company which helped bail WP Rugby out of their cash crisis late last year, just ahead of controversial liquidation of the business wing, would not be converting loans to the union into stake-holding.
It means that WP Rugby will have to gradually pay back some R40 million which helped pay staff and player salaries during the troubled period.
They are also far from out of the woods on financial issues as Aerios, the company at the centre of a multimillion-rand advertising rights dispute with them, continues to pursue a massive damages claim of around R276 million.
A Section 417 insolvency inquiry is scheduled to begin next Thursday, under retired High Court judge Eberhard Bertelsmann, and subpoenas have been served on the directors of WP Rugby.
Sport24 has learnt that WP Rugby are contemplating an “in-house” solution to their kit issue, following the adidas pull-out – the 2018 season is only some six months away, starting with Super Rugby in its likely, traditional starting slot of late February.
The chief executive of WP Rugby, Paul Zacks, has experience in the trade as he is a former managing director of rugby jersey manufacturer Canterbury International SA.
Canterbury SA applied for voluntary liquidation in 2009 – they were kit suppliers to the Springboks at the time – although Zacks had changed jobs two years before.
It is understood that, during the lengthy association with adidas, WP Rugby benefited significantly both in cash and kit-supply terms; they provided training and match kit to all WP sides, including age-group ones and the women’s team.
The adidas name is so influential that teams like Munster and Harlequins in the northern hemisphere actually buy their kit from them.
Earlier this year, the company also extended its multimillion-dollar kit deal with the world champion All Blacks to 2023.
*Sport24 has approached WP Rugby for comment on the adidas termination.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing