Lions could be kicked out of Super Rugby

Former Lions business partner Robert Gumede has warned that the Lions could be kicked out of Super Rugby by the 2013 season.

Gumede pulled out of his partnership with the Lions and has since revealed that the Lions have serious financial difficulties.

“The only team guaranteed of a place in Super Rugby in 2013 are the Southern Kings,” said Gumede.

“The South African Rugby Union (Saru) have given the assurance (to government) that the Eastern Cape team will play in the competition from 2013. “

“That means that one of the other five local teams (the Bulls, Cheetahs, Lions, Sharks and Stormers) may miss out.

“And if you take into account recent performances, of where they finished on the log and number of matches won, and not even talking about crowd attendance, then the most vulnerable team are the Lions.”

SANZAR have confirmed that Super Rugby will keep it’s 15 team format for the next four years at least which means that if SARugby are to honour their commitment to the Southern Kings one of the current South African franchises will have to drop out.

The only other alternative is that the Lions and Cheetahs merge again and play as a new version of the Cats but the partnership didn’t work the first time and it is unlikely that a second time would be any different.

Speaking to The Star on Sunday, Gumede said that the Lions would feel the brunt of the failed partnership over the coming months.

“When we spoke of transformation at the Lions we were referring to good corporate governance, creating a winning culture and retaining and attracting the best players for the team.

“But I can’t now see how they’re going to keep their best players and attract others when they’re battling financially,” said Gumede.

Gumede painted a grim picture of the Lions’ administration last week and said, “When we first got involved in talks with the Lions, the first thing discussed was that we had to make sure the side would not be ‘relegated’ from Super Rugby.

“And we all knew then that the fact there were black owners would be no guarantee of continued participation in the competition.”

“We knew that performance and position on the log would be used as the barometer to determine who stays up and who doesn’t.

“We knew we had to make a significant improvement in 2011 and 2012. We hoped we’d finish ahead of the Cheetahs, but we didn’t and now the Lions are vulnerable going forward.”

Gumede added that if the Lions are successful in the upcoming Currie Cup competition it would not solve the problems.

“It’s not the Currie Cup that matters … that competition is now used to grow a team and bring youngsters through the system.”

“It’s Super Rugby that’s important … that’s where you want to measure yourself and that’s the one you really want to be involved in and win.

“But if the Lions aren’t involved in Super Rugby what will happen to the sponsors, who first and foremost want to be part of Super Rugby? And then what of the players?”

Gumede said that it was time for Lions president Kevin de Klerk to come clean about his union’s financial position. “I have a lot of respect for Kevin and he’s a nice guy … but he is not leading the union. “

“And the Lions don’t need nice guys right now, they need leadership.

“The Lions have refuted the allegations we have made (in a press statement on Friday), but it is time they answered some questions and not just refute them.

“The fact of the matter is that the Lions can’t even afford to pay back 10-percent of the R16-million Guma-TAC have spent.”

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