Financial future of Southern Kings under review

EP President Cheeky Watson

The future of the Southern Kings and Eastern Province and the Southern Kings Super Rugby franchise have been thrown into doubt as a financial review of the Union has started.

For the last few months there has been no shortage of reports of players not being paid on time and potential player strikes.

In recent days further reports have surfaced stating that players had again not been paid and a number of players on the weekend wore white armbands in support of players who had not been paid.

On Thursday Eastern Province Rugby, SARU and SARPA released a joint statement stating that the future financial stability of EP rugby is now under review.

High-level discussions between Eastern Province Rugby, the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the South African Rugby Players’ Association (SARPA) took place in Port Elizabeth on Thursday to review the current and future financial stability of the union.

The talks stemmed from concerns over the recent delayed payments to EP Kings players. SARU President, Mr Oregan Hoskins, SARU GM Operations and Finance, Basil Haddad, and SARPA CEO Piet Heymans met EP Rugby officials.

Mr Hoskins said he had full confidence in the current leadership under EP Rugby President Cheeky Watson.

“We are aware of the financial challenges that EP Rugby are facing and are fully confident that EP Rugby is in the process of addressing these challenges,” he said.

“We have seen how, in the face of similar challenges earlier in the year, EP Rugby were able to resolve the matter and that no player has gone unpaid for any extended period of time,” said Mr Hoskins.

Mr Hoskins encouraged both business and rugby supporters to get behind the Eastern Province Rugby Union in preparation for their re-entry to Vodacom Super Rugby next year.

“The Eastern Province region is still the cradle of black rugby and the Kings Franchise will play a critical role in the development of future black Springboks, which is instrumental to the transformation of the sport as a whole,” said Mr Hoskins.

He added that this fact was apparent in the demographics of the EP Kings U19 side, which is currently top of the log of the ABSA U19 A division, having won 10 of their 11 matches to date.

Mr Heymans, who had visited EP Rugby in July over delayed payment issues, said SARPA had engaged with both SARU and EP Rugby over the issue of delayed payment.

“We will be taking the outcomes of these talks back to the players and will be following up with EP Rugby again next week,” he said.

“We will continue to provide players with advice during this period whilst monitoring the situation at the EP Kings. Our priority at this time is the well-being of the players,” Heymans concluded.

Mr Watson said he appreciated the fact that both SARU and SARPA were prepared to engage with the union.

“We will not deny that there have been cash flow challenges this year, but what is often overlooked is that we have always met these challenges head on, and have been able to overcome them,” he said.

Watson said EP was acutely aware of the challenges that the late payments caused and had always made arrangements to assist players where possible.

“We are confident that the union will be in a strong financial position going forward and that this will not repeat itself,” he said.

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