Spears to take legal action

The financial crisis gripping the Southern Spears in recent weeks has deepened with news that the beleaguered franchise has just R850 left in its bank account.

According to The Herald newspaper, administrative and support staff at the franchise have not been paid their April salaries. This comes in the wake of the row between the Spears and the SA Rugby Union over a failure to pay salaries at the end of March too.

As a result, the Spears are contemplating legal action against Saru. And Spears’ chief executive Tony McKeever has hit out again at Saru administrators and said their refusal to pay the salaries was an attempt to “suffocate” the franchise.

“They (SA Rugby) simply do not want the Spears to exist,” he told The Herald. Although the players and team management did receive payment at the end of April, the Spears were seriously contemplating legal action against Saru if the balance was not sorted out by the end of business on Wednesday. And that did not happen.

According to The Herald, a letter sent to SA Rugby by the Spears’ attorneys, Friedman Scheckter, said: “You are hereby called upon, by no later than close of business on May 3, 2006, to ensure that the salaries of all our client’s officials are paid, in terms of your undertaking, failing which, our client will consider bringing an application for specific performance, and costs against you, to ensure that payment is made.”

“The Spears have a bank account and there is R850 in that account, but we have no liabilities. The Spears are the liability of SA Rugby,” McKeever said in the report.

He said the franchise had spent R5-million of its allocated R12-million budget. This expenditure was for the period August, 2005, to March this year.

SA Rugby CEO Johan Prinsloo responded: “There was never an agreement that we would pay for staff. They were appointed by Tony McKeever without consultation with SA Rugby.”

Salaries for staff, Prinsloo said, were “part and parcel of the money he (McKeever) had to spend”, as far as SA Rugby was concerned.

But McKeever told The Herald that SA Rugby had been paying the salaries of administrative staff for the last four months and was now shirking its duties. “SA Rugby has every one of our employees on a salary register and has been paying our employees as per our instructions to it,” he said.