Latest blow could bury Lions

The Lions’ already perilous financial situation reached a new low on Wednesday with a court of arbitration ordering them to make multi-million rand payments to the Pumas and Leopards.

The Lions have consistently denied rumours they are bankrupt or on the verge thereof, but it is widely known that they are in deep financial trouble. This latest ruling, which comes at the conclusion of a lengthy legal process stemming from the Lions’ continual non-payment of the Pumas and Leopards’ (their franchise partners) portion of the Super Rugby grant distributed by Saru, is a hammer blow.

It comes just days after they were booted out of the 2013 Super Rugby competition to accommodate the Kings and just over a year since the Guma Group withdrew their multi-million rand investment in the franchise.

On Wednesday retired Judge WJ Hartzenberg determined that the Lions must pay the Leopards Rugby Union the amount of R2,565,000, being franchise monies for 2008, 2009 and 2010 ( according to the franchise agreement they are due roughly R250,000 per year). Furthermore they were ordered to pay interest on the R2,565,000, at the rate of 15.5% from the date of the arbitration agreement (31 May 2012) until the date of payment.

The Pumas and Lions came to an agreement regarding payment for the aforemetioned period. However, the Lions have been instructed to engage the two unions on the fair distribution of R6.6 million (the combined sum for 2011 and 2012) within two days after the granting of the arbitration order. Any failure to do so will see Saru step in and decide on this distribution.

Furthermore, the Lions must pay the cost of the arbitration incurred by both the Mpumalanga Rugby Union as well as the Leopards Rugby Union. This amount is likely to be significant given the length and complexity of the proceedings.

The Lions’ primary equity partners Glasfit and MTN, who agreed to a five-year R20 million-a-year deal in January 2011, are expected to review their contracts in light of the Lions’ non-participation in the 2013 Super Rugby competition. Saru has agreed to pay the Lions their share of the R6.6 million they would have been due for 2013 but were non-committal when asked about financial assistance beyond that.

Keo.co.za’s attempts to reach Lions president Kevin de Klerk for comment were unsuccessful.

By Ryan Vrede