Massive lay-offs for Lions

Keo.co.za understands that up to 15 players on the Lions’ payroll will be retrenched as the union battles to avoid financial ruin.

Rumours of the Johannesburg franchise being bankrupt have circulated since late last year and was further fuelled by a leaked document from former multi-million Rand investors, the Guma Group, detailing the depth of union’s financial crisis.

In the document, Robert Gumede and Ivor Ichikowitz of the Guma Group alleged (among other things) that the Lions were struggling to pay back millions in loans, that the union has up to 90 players under contract and some of the players are receiving big salaries in spite of not being at training, that Dick Muir (former Lions coach) received a salary of about R2.2 million per year, even though he has not been actively involved at the Lions since May 2010, and that they were unable to pay salaries in October and December 2010, as well as in January 2011.

Lions president Kevin de Klerk has denied the claims and this website understands he later met privately with the contracted players to assure them of the union’s financial stability and ease fears around non-payment of salaries and potential retrenchments.

However, those fears appear to have become a reality, with a well placed source informing this website that up to 15 players have been told their services are no longer needed. Among those players are Wandile Mjekevu, Kevin Buys, Jannie Boshoff, Dries van Schalkwyk and Trevor Hall. De Klerk has reportedly been bombarded with calls from players’ agents and has been engaged in lengthy crisis talks with these agents as well as potential investors in a bid to steady the sinking ship.

The root of the problem lies with the Guma Group’s decision to withdraw their involvement with the franchise in late 2011, citing the Lions’ unwillingness to meet the transformation criteria that the group said was central to their decision to invest. Gumede and Ichikowitz are known to have lined up lucrative contracts for the union before their departure, whereupon those contracts were lost leaving the Lions in a dire financial situation.

Keo.co.za was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach De Klerk for comment.

By Ryan Vrede