Spears clutch at straws

CEO Tony McKeever claims he has received verbal confirmation from Saru’s Christo Ferreira of the decision guaranteeing the Southern Spears’ participation in the Vodacom Super 14. Ferreira denies any such confirmation.

Those are the latest developments in the ongoing saga that is the Spears’ fight for survival.

The Port Elizabeth-based fledgling franchise had issued Saru with an ultimatum that should confirmation of the Saru President’s Council decision to allow the Spears into the 2007 competition not be received by 12.00 today, legal action would follow.

With 12.00 now history, McKeever told keo.co.za that the required confirmation was received.

“We have received verbal confirmation from (the GM of legal affairs at Saru) Christo Ferreira of the decision. We are awaiting written confirmation imminently,” a confident McKeever said. “We stand down from our threat of court action as a result.”

Despite McKeever’s assurances, Ferreira denies any such confirmation.

“Goodness gracious, certainly I did not guarantee anything,” a clearly surprised Ferreira told keo.co.za. “My goodness that is very interesting. I told him that the decision made on 2 December still stands as no subsequent forum has discussed it.

“As is the case with any decision, it still remains valid, but the only time the Spears will receive the confirmation they seek is if that decision is still valid at the beginning of 2007.”

Ferreira intimated that the decision taken to include the Spears was the same as any other, and could be overturned if the correct procedures were followed.

The news follows the announcement that the five CEOs of the current participating franchises have agreed to remove the clause that the Spears are guaranteed participants in next year’s Super 14 in their contracts with SANZAR.

Whether the Spears emerge from the storm they are currently enveloped is far from certani, and it is clear that McKeever’s optimism may be misplaced.

Realistically the only certainty in the continuing chaos is that the Spears’s automatic elevation to Vodacom Super 14 status is anything but secure.

Later in the day, SARU issued this release to the media

SA Rugby CEO Johan Prinsloo has warned the Southern Spears to refrain from making media statements that misrepresent SA Rugby and challenge the authority of the mother body.

In response to numerous media articles citing Spears CEO Tony McKeever criticizing SA Rugby on the issue of the franchise’ participation in the Vodacom Super 14, Prinsloo has called on the Spears to utilise the existing SA Rugby platforms to channel their concerns.

In a letter responding to the Spears’ lawyers demand for clarity on the Vodacom Super 14 matter, Prinsloo noted the national body’s concern about how the Eastern Cape franchise was handling the participation issue.

“I would appreciate it if you could advise the CEO of your client to refrain from utilizing the media to further his case, but rather as a responsible administrator, to make use of the channels available to him to address any of his concerns with SA Rugby,� Prinsloo’s says in the letter.

“Should he, or any of his personnel, continue to use the media to air their frustrations, it could result in them not acting in the best interests of SA Rugby and/or the Game, and, therefore, could result in a breach of the SA Rugby Code of Conduct.�