Privatisation of 2023 RWC Boks, a no go area -says franchise unions and a rugby legend

UPDATE: IT seems some unions and SA Rugby are at loggerheads over the discussion of privatisation.

We can confirm on good record that the preferred bidder Ackerley Sports Group (ASG), an American company, is keen to ‘take over the reins’ should the talks on potential private equity transaction materialize.

SA Rugby has been approached by private equity companies who wish to acquire a shareholding in the sport’s commercial activities being ASG and CVC Capital Partners.

With Boks RWC in 2023, their profile is in demand from commercial point of view.

But the four Unions are having none of it, and demand an urgent meeting with interim CEO Rian Oberholzer.

“Once a proposed final structure for the new company and its relationship with the existing SA Rugby structure has been finalized, a series of workshops and information sessions will be undertaken to allow member unions to fully interrogate the deal. That structure is still a work in progress,” according to a press statement.

In 2021, former Bok lock and businessman Schalk Burger Snr, sparked a debate over the SA Rugby’s discussions with firms with regards to a potential private equity transaction. 

His reservations were based on speculation that a direct stake in the Springboks might be sold, essentially privatising a team ‘owned by the people’ he was quoted, and believes the national team’s identity is a “sovereign and unique” property that should be “owned by the people”.

Now that ugly head has reared again in 2024.

This week SA Rugby is putting out the fires following the decision taken ata General Meeting of SA Rugby on 7 December 2023, were the members of SA Rugby – including the franchise owning unions, attended a presentation by both ASG and CVC.

According to Rugby SA, “ASG’s offer primarily focuses on immediate financial gain and guaranteed income, with lower thresholds for contingency payments, presenting a straightforward proposal for a commercial partnership, which we believe could offer comprehensive advantages to our organization. The ultimate decision will hinge on balancing the immediate financial requirements with the long-term strategic objectives of our rugby organization” hence ASG is a preferred bidder.

The chief reason behind such a deal, it “wouldoffer not just an immediate financial boost but also crucially provides the expertise, networks, and resources necessary to enhance the commercial value of South African rugby. This collaboration can position SA Rugby, the Springboks and, eventually, other teams for greater global prominence”, continued the press release.

Although its not a done deal, however,members of SA Rugby have agreed on the primary conditions and substantial effort is ongoing behind the scenes to finalise the specifics.

Since the finer points are critical, no final approval will be granted until our members have been thoroughly briefed and a mandate secured.”

“This process can only be agreed upon once our 14 members have approved it, which may well be at the Annual General Meeting scheduled for 30 May 2024, for their approval or rejection,” according to media release from Rugby SA.

Meanwhile, plans to add South Africa to the Six Nations have been scrapped after an impasse in talks with the tournament’s investors.

This comes after talks with CVC Capital Partners over an investment in SA Rugby reached a stalemate.

The private equity company is a major investor in the Six Nations, with a long-term investment agreement worth £365 million (about R7.6 billion) announced in 2021.

At the time of publishing the minister of Sport, Zizi Kodwa had not responded for a comment, on whether he’s been made aware of such talks?

It has now been brought to our attention the Minister is aware of such and would not comment as yet, according to the spokesperson Litha Mpondwana, who had only this to say “the matter hasn’t been brought to the Ministry”.

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