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SPORT AND RECREATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
24 May 2005
MEETING WITH SA RUGBY
Documents handed out:
ZoneWarrior: Official Semi-Contact Rules
ZoneWarrior: Official Full Contact Rules
ZoneWarrior: Official Soccer Rules
ZoneWarrior presented its rugby skills development programme which aimed to advance transformation in SA Rugby. ZoneWarrior sought the endorsement of the Minister of Sport and Recreation in order to begin its implementation strategy in Cape Town in 2005. Members decided that another meeting should be scheduled with ZoneWarrior so that they would have more time to discuss the concept.
SA Rugby (SARU) apologised to the Committee for failing to attend a previous meeting. SARU outlined the process of awarding the Super 14 franchises, including the meetings held by management with the advisory panel appointed for this process, which ended on 15 April when SARU announced its decision. Members’ questions focused on two main areas: how the distribution of franchises affected transformation in rugby and what the causes were of the schisms in SARU leadership following the April 15 announcement. Many Members were concerned that SARU had neglected its commitment to transformation by failing to offer a franchise to the Eastern Cape. In the end, the Committee decided to leave the crisis in rugby management to the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) for resolution.
Mr Leon Potgieter introduced the Committee to the concept of ZoneWarrior, a tactical skills development programme aiming to develop the game of rugby in previously disadvantaged areas and to provide a marketing platform for the corporate sector to invest in social development through rugby. ZoneWarrior was designed to address the existing problems in South African Rugby, in particular the slow progress of transformation and the low standard of technical rugby skills and coaching skills. It offered a skills development game on the model of a similar initiative in basketball that had attracted a significant number of new players each year over the last 5-7 years (18%-27% per year for basketball compared with 2% per year for rugby).
ZoneWarrior was designed to be co-ordinated with social upliftment programmes in disadvantaged communities; it would also stimulate economic growth in these areas by empowering the community to manage the programme themselves through the ZoneWarrior League Franchises. These league franchises would also create a link between clubs and schools by means of joint coaching sessions.
ZoneWarrior was yet to be endorsed by the Minister of Sport and Recreation, Mr Makhenkesi Stofile. The date for its implementation was determined as 2005 and the implementation strategy would begin with the establishment of a Pilot ZoneWarrior Players Training Programme in the Cape Town townships which would then be extended to the rest of the country over the following 3-5 years. Detailed budgets were attached to the implementation strategy as presented.
Mr C Frolick (ANC) and Mr T Louw (ANC) both suggested that the Committee should discuss ZoneWarrior at a later date when there was sufficient time and that another meeting should be scheduled for this purpose. The Chairperson agreed.
Meeting with SA Rugby
The Chairperson expressed disappointment that SA Rugby (SARU) had failed to attend a previous Committee meeting to which they had been invited. He requested that SARU explain their absence, since it had created the impression that they wished only to have dealings with the Minister and not with the Committee, which had a constitutional obligation to interact with sporting bodies.
SARU should also give an account of the matter presently in the public domain concerning the award of Super 14 franchises. The ‘logic’ of franchise distribution had not previously been presented to Members, who should be able to explain the process as it had been legitimately presented to them.
Mr Brian Van Rooyen, SARU President, extended an apology to the Committee for SARU’s failure to attend the previous meeting. This was caused by a miscommunication: a letter explaining SARU’s inability to attend the meeting was sent to the office of the Chairperson prior to the meeting, but was only received after the meeting had taken place.
Mr Louw asked whether Mr Van Rooyen had spoken to the Chairperson prior to the aborted meeting. Mr D Dikgacwi (ANC) referred to a report in The Argus that SARU had failed to attend the meeting as they did not wish ‘to be shuttled up and down to Parliament like schoolboys’. If the report was imprecise, it was within the power of Mr Van Rooyen to correct it.
The Chairperson ruled that Mr Van Rooyen did not need to respond to Mr Louw and Mr Dikgacwi’s questions. The Committee accepted SARU’s apology ‘in good faith’ and would not interrogate the accuracy of media reports.
Rev M Khumalo (ACDP) enquired when SARU would present their Transformation Charter to the Committee for evaluation. The Chairperson replied that a formal presentation would be necessary, as this would give Members the opportunity to review the Charter in advance, in preparation for discussion. Mr Mike Stofile, SARU Vice-President, interjected that SARU had drafted the Transformation Charter that was presently being circulated among the 14 provinces for their comments.
Mr Van Rooyen briefly summarised the process of awarding the Super 14 franchises. SARU’s Presidents’ Council had appointed a Panel to oversee the process, granting it the power to make recommendations to SARU’s management committee, but not the power to make independent decisions. The Panel’s adjudication report, detailing its meetings and recommendations, was presently lodged with SARU’s attorneys.
The Panel held meetings with the national coach and selectors, among other parties. It held extensive hearings in the Western Province Rugby Union Buildings on 26 April 2005, during which not one rugby union president objected to the partnership of larger provinces with smaller provinces (such as Eastern Province).
Previously, the Panel had met on 6 and 7 of April to finalise its recommendations and to present them to the management committee. An intensive debate ensued, during which Mr Andre Markgraaf, SARU Deputy President, expressed concern over the financial implications of the suggested franchise distribution. Mr Stofile was not satisfied with the answers given by the Panel during discussion, but nevertheless the meeting concluded with the adoption of the recommendations.
SARU management requested that the Panel present its report on April 15 in order that the financial issues raised by Mr Markgraaf could be discussed. Members of the management committee supported the report, except for Mr Stofile who expressed disappointment that a franchise would not be offered to the Eastern Cape. At the press conference to announce SARU’s decision, the Presidents’ Council did not dissent from the report.
The Panel objected strongly to allegations in the press following the adoption of their report that indicted the process they had followed. However, during the week following the announcement of April 15, some members of the management committee expressed concern over the conditions that would be imposed on those unions awarded franchises. They compiled a report requesting a review of the process followed by the Panel. Since this development, events had ‘overtaken’ SARU, and the Presidents’ Council had not met to discuss the matter. In the view of Mr Van Rooyen, the Eastern Cape should be included in the franchise distribution.
The Chairperson asked how many provinces were awarded franchises. Mr Van Rooyen responded that, according to the decision of 15 April (which he was informed that the Presidents’ Council had rescinded), SARU had offered a franchise to each of the unions in 14 provinces grouped into five regions:
- region1: Western Province; South Western Districts; Boland
- region 2: Kwazulu-Natal; Border
- region 3: Blue Bulls; Eastern Province
- region 4: Golden Lions; Leopards; Pumas; Falcons, and
- region 5: Free State; Griqualand West.
Mr Frolick asked whether criticism of the financial conditions on which franchises were awarded was not also a contestation of the principles of allocation. He asked what the reasons were for SARU falling into a state of ‘paralysis’ subsequent to the range of meetings outlined by Mr Van Rooyen. The Committee was not concerned with individuals positioning themselves for self-advancement within SARU, but was rather concerned with transformation in rugby and the equitable distribution of resources.
Mr Stofile replied that in the meeting on April 15 the varying interpretations of the terms ‘recommendation’, ‘offer’ and ‘approval’ caused numerous misunderstandings. At the end of a long debate over the Panel’s report, a number of parties refused to accept the recommendations, including Mr Stofile himself, and also representatives from Border and the Eastern Cape, who then walked out of the meeting. Following this rupture, the remaining parties agreed to ‘accept’ the recommendations; yet this did not entail ‘approval’. SARU then released the recommendations to the provincial unions, which were required to report back to the Presidents’ Council within 45 days.
Mr Louw stated that SARU management should not be waylaid by ‘semantics’ and asked why they were failing to provide leadership. He asked what implications the award of franchises would have for transformation.
Mr Van Rooyen responded that the notion of SARU’s ‘paralysis’ was not true. Difficulties with franchise distribution had not been resolved as the Presidents’ Council had not met since April 15. It was difficult to exercise leadership in SARU when one received conflicting directives from the Minister and from the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), as well as trying to please sponsors. SASCOC had determined that those who did not want to continue working for SARU should be subjected to re-election. If Mr Van Rooyen did not have the support of the electorate, he would vacate his position.
However, the continuing allegations from within SARU of mismanagement by Mr Van Rooyen constituted a breach of SARU’s constitution. The Chairperson asked Mr Van Rooyen to stipulate the terms of SARU’s code of conduct. Mr Van Rooyen said that SARU had a constitution underwritten by the International Rugby Board (IRB) that stated that dissatisfied parties should make their complaints to the Presidents’ Council first and not to the media. The constitution also limited Mr Van Rooyen’s power as President. He was unable to call a meeting of the Presidents’ Council; this could only be called jointly by nine Presidents of the SARU unions. The problem of the franchise distribution was on the agenda for the next Presidents’ Council meeting.
Since the beginning of the present SARU management’s term, transformation had progressed significantly, as was demonstrated in the composition of the Currie Cup teams and the Springbok team. SARU had adopted the Transformation Charter in principle, but had sent it to the 14 provinces for consideration so that it could be refined and adapted according to the requirements of each province. Eventually each province would draw up its own transformation charter according to its specific development challenges.
Mr Dikgacwi declared that SARU should re-allocate the franchises to ensure provinces were equally represented. In the pairing of South Western Districts with Western Province, an area such as George would not be fully represented. Similarly, if the Eastern Cape were paired with the Blue Bulls, its players would not be adequately represented. The re-election of the SARU management committee would not solve this problem.
Mr T Lee (DA) was satisfied that the process of awarding the franchises was fair: an independent panel had operated according to democratic principles in which disagreement was allowed. The management of rugby should be left to rugby administrators and not interfered with.
Dr E Schoeman (ANC) said that the Committee would like to see rugby well-managed at all levels and transformation proceeding in the interests of all rugby-playing regions. SARU was presently a ‘rudderless ship’ that was being destabilised by ‘unacceptable’ power politics within the management. The Committee was satisfied that the process followed in awarding the franchises was objective, but the period of 45 days given to the provinces to respond to franchise offers was too long. As a result of the complications that occurred in this period, rugby had become ‘paralysed’. SARU should re-establish order in their organisation.
Mr Van Rooyen responded that if the SARU electorate was dissatisfied with the manner in which the organisation was operating, it had the right to express this. In order to advance rugby development at all levels, SARU was presently holding discussions with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to improve the coverage given to rugby in disadvantaged areas. The SABC was presently only giving coverage to school rugby festivals in affluent areas, while sponsors were only supporting the formerly ‘white’ schools.
Mr Van Rooyen conceded that in hindsight the period of 45 days allowed to provinces to consider the franchise offers was too long, and if the process were to be repeated a period of one week would be allowed. A franchise should have been offered to the Eastern Cape, but not before discussions had been held with their management team. SARU was satisfied that they had followed a legitimate process in awarding franchises. Those within SARU who made allegations of corruption and mismanagement had transgressed the constitution by airing their allegations first in the media. However, such transgressions had not ‘paralysed’ SARU.
Mr Stofile stated that SARU was certainly ‘paralysed’, as had been demonstrated at a meeting the previous day, to which some union presidents were not invited.
Mr L Reid (ANC) felt that if SARU were committed to transformation they would have offered a franchise to the Eastern Cape, which possessed the majority of black rugby players. If franchise distribution remained as decided on 15 April, other provinces would continue to buy players from the Eastern Cape to enhance their own transformation programmes. Rev Khumalo emphasised that SARU had failed to advance solidarity among South Africans by not awarding a franchise to the Eastern Cape.
Mr Dikgacwi asked why the South African under-19 team was fully representative, but not the senior Springbok team. The Committee had an obligation to investigate why SARU management was not exercising leadership in dealing with external matters that affected them. Mr Louw commented that media reports focused on franchise distribution as provinces like Free State and Griqualand West that had been offered franchises were not committed to transformation. The reason that the Eastern Cape was overlooked was the fear that black players would ‘flood’ rugby teams.
Mr E Salojee (ANC) said that the divisions within SARU leadership could not be healed through the proper functioning of that leadership if the fundamental issue of transformation were not dealt with first. SARU was currently ‘immobilised’ by the divisions in its leadership and it should be seriously considered that a commission be established to investigate the crisis.
Mr A Mlangeni (ANC) commented that the Committee was not a commission of inquiry, but rather was assembled to facilitate ‘peace-making’ in the divided national sport of rugby. Although he had no vested interest in the matter, Mr Mlangeni would have liked to have seen a franchise offered to the Eastern Cape, while acknowledging that the Presidents’ Council would first have to discuss the conditions related to the offer. The large number of black players in the Eastern Cape should be afforded the advantages of playing in a Super 14 franchise.
Mr Van Rooyen noted that one of the conditions attached to the franchise distribution was that each of the larger unions should contract black players from the smaller unions with which they were partnered. Although this condition was onerous for the smaller unions, they had agreed to it in the interests of transformation. Presently, 80% of the money generated by the Super 12 was going to the larger unions. More matches should be played in the smaller unions, like the Eastern Cape, which were currently ‘selling’ their Super 12 matches to the larger unions instead of hosting them.
Mr Frolick commented that if SARU declared its commitment to transformation, it should demonstrate this commitment in its decision-making. Members expected that SARU leadership would have resolved its problems before the current crisis had been reached. He asked whether the outcome of the SARU elections on 17 June would solve this crisis.
Mr Van Rooyen admitted that the divisions within SARU were deep. If the present SARU leadership could not be reconciled, they should be allowed to leave so that SARU could be restructured following the elections on 17 June. That dissenting members of the SARU leadership had made their disagreements known in the public arena should not be interpreted as ‘chaos’ within SARU. SARU completed a forensic audit on ‘leakages’ to prevent dissident parties from expressing their views to the media, and should be allowed to follow internal processes to deal with the matter.
Mr J Prinsloo (SARU CEO) invited Members to visit the SARU offices and to observe the procedures for themselves.
The Chairperson said that the Committee had now been informed about the problems with franchise distribution and with the leadership of SARU. The Committee would now hand the matter over to SASCOC and would support their decisions. The Committee urged SARU to make every effort to award a franchise to the Eastern Cape.
The meeting was adjourned.
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