Spears take SARugby to competition commission

A report on South Africa’s Business report website says that the Southern Spears, the southeastern Cape rugby franchise which was supposed to have joined the Super 14, has lodged a complaint with the competition commission against SA Rugby for alleged abuse of power and anti-competitive practices.

When the Super 12 was expanded back in 2004 SARugby said that the South African team that finishes last in the Super 14 they would drop out making space for the Spears to join.

After numerous court cases SA Rugby prevented the Spears from participating in the Super 14 competition this year despite a Cape high court ruling in the Spears’ favour.

According to the Business Report the franchise has alleged that the five major provinces – the Blue Bulls, Lions, Sharks, Cheetahs and Stormers – collaborated, colluded and conspired as a cartel, together with certain individuals at SA Rugby, to financially suppress, subdue and deliberately prevent the Southern Spears from playing in the 2006 Absa Currie Cup and the 2007 and 2008 Super 14 competitions.

The Spears claim these actions “sabotaged” its sponsorship agreements and deprived and denied Eastern Cape rugby players from having their own Super 14 franchise “as was legally granted to them by SA Rugby in a unanimous agreement on June 8 2005”.

Thulane Kunene, the commission’s head of enforcement, confirmed yesterday that a complaint had been lodged against SA Rugby and the five major rugby unions and an investigator had been allocated to deal with the complaint.

Kunene said a preliminary investigation was being conducted to determine if the complaint raised competition concerns and was within the commission’s jurisdiction.

He said he should receive a report today that would allow him to take a decision on whether the commission “will be taking up this matter”.

Jonathan Stones, managing director of SA Rugby, was unavailable for comment.

The Spears franchise claims the express purpose of the unanimous June 2005 agreement was to advance social and economic welfare in the Eastern Cape through the awarding of the Super 14 rugby franchise for 2007 and 2008.

It further claimed that this award was intended to ensure that a medium-sized enterprise, such as the Southern Spears, had an equitable opportunity to participate in the rugby economy. It was also intended to promote a greater spread of ownership, in particular to increase the ownership stakes of historically disadvantaged people who play rugby in the Eastern Cape.

“However, this was unilaterally taken away by SA Rugby in a concerted intimidation campaign secretly endorsed and supported by the rugby cartel comprising the Lions, Cheetahs, Sharks, Blue Bulls and Stormers,” it said.

The Spears added that in a desperate bid to exclude the Spears from the Super 14, SA Rugby had attempted an alternative strategy to buy 50 percent of each of the rugby unions of South Western Districts, Eastern Province and Border, the three member unions comprising the Spears.

It said that this unsuccessful strategy was intended to enable SA Rugby to “vote for” the withdrawal of the legal process upholding the rights of the Southern Spears to play in the 2006 Absa Currie Cup and 2007 and 2008 Super 14.

The Spears franchise is claiming that SA Rugby abused its dominant position in the rugby market to exclude competition and engaged in several exclusionary acts.

The Spears structure is in liquidation.

With thanks Business Report

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