Cash row will spear new franchise

Many statements were made on Monday about the Spears, but very few questions were answered. Where did the R4.6 million go, if not on salaries to players? And who in the South African Rugby Union allows that kind of money to be given away without a proof of spend?

The statement issued by SARU on Monday afternoon about the Spears was damning. According to SARU R3million had been given to the Spears and at last count the franchise had spent R4.6 million. Now before we unload the bullets on the Spears operational management, someone has to be accountable for actually giving the region R1.6 million more than the agreed upon R3million.

And who agrees to an additional R1.6 million without any accountability, on behalf of the Spears, as to how the R3million has been spent? If the Spears operational gurus stand accused of abusing the system that so easily feeds them, then surely the generous benefactor within SARU is as culpable.

SARU’s press statement on Monday was a pat on the back and an opportunity to gain the moral high ground in the culling of this new franchise. Despite this small matter of R4.6 million that had been spent, on what SARU was not clear, SARU’s kind administration had agreed to pay the players and staff salaries because they had a responsibility to these people’s families. The self indulgence knew no limits. Just for a moment, while reading the prose, I thought I heard harps and angels.

It did not take Spears CEO Tony McKeever long to respond and claim SARU had done the dirty on him and his administration. What followed was SARU spokesman Vusi Kama, the author of the press release in question, having a laugh at McKeever’s response. But the real laugh was at South African rugby and the manner in which it conducts its affairs, especially the financial side of things.

You have a situation where outgoing president Brian van Rooyen claimed Free State owed SARU R2million. Free State president Harold Verster refuted the claim, arguing it was not a loan but a grant and that the R2million was a kick-start from the South African Rugby Union to assist the Cheetahs in the first season of Super 14. It is unlikely that one will ever be resolved.

Now you have the Spears claiming, as inaccurate, that SARU bailed them out. McKeever says no money given was meant for salaries.

A fortnight ago the Spears and SARU made a statement that their fight about Super 14 status would be kept out of court and out of the media. The undertaking did not last long and new president Regan Hoskins, like his predecessor Van Rooyen found out, will have realised it is dangerous to leave South Africa in such troubled times.

The moment Hoskins left for IRB duty, the media war heated up with the ammunition provided by the Spears, with the initial leak that their players weren’t paid, and SARU followed with a media response to the allegation that they would not pay the players.

SARU, in the press release of Monday, showed up their own credibility as a business as much as it attempted to do to the Spears. This one is not just about who took the money, but also who gave it without justification of where it was going.

Was it part of the presidential election campaign? Is it something that will be blamed on Van Rooyen or is there an operational signature that agreed to the release of the funds?

None of those questions were answered on Monday, but they are questions that will have to be answered in the next few days. The Spears as a Super 14 prospect are doomed. What is happening now is the three-warnings and you’re out scenario. But it would appear as if the Spears have committed financial suicide even before SARU’s senior elders gave the order to pull the trigger on their Super 14 aspiratons.

Not so long ago Spears coach Peter de Villiers told this webiste that they did not have enough money to buy practise cones. Where then did the R4.6 million go? We know it didn’t go on practise cones and as nice as the jerseys are, my guess is they came a bit cheaper than R4.6 million.

So many questions, so many voices. But no answers. It must have been Monday in South African rugby.