The millions that ride on one rugby game

2013-08-04 14:00

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R100m was at stake in yesterday’s game, Lions union reveals

Yesterday’s Super Rugby promotion-relegation game between the Golden Lions and the Southern Kings had more riding on it than most people realised.

While the Lions were able to hold on to their sponsors during their drought season, it is highly unlikely they would have attracted sponsors without a season of Super Rugby for a second year running.

The Johannesburg franchise signed a three-year sponsorship deal with MTN worth R20 million a year in 2011, and this expires next year. MTN’s Brands and Communications general manager Ryan Gould said they are still contractually obligated to the Lions.

“MTN South Africa is still within its contractual obligations with the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU). MTN would not like to comment on its plans regarding the team, as this is reserved for the contractual negotiations,” added Gould.

They also signed a three-year sponsorship deal with the JSE-listed Redefine Properties in 2011 after winning the Currie Cup for the first time since 1999.

Redefine Properties did not comment at the time of going to press despite questions sent on Friday afternoon and telephone confirmation that they had received the questions and would respond.

Before vice-president Altmann Allers, the chairman of Glasfit, came on board as an equity partner, Guma-Tac, co-owned by Robert Gumede and Ivor Ichikowitz, were set to become 49.9% equity partners. But they backed out.

GLRU chief executive Manie Booysen told Beeld yesterday there was at least R100 million riding on yesterday’s game.

“In sport, you do not want such a situation, but if we lose, we may have to make further adjustments,” Booysen told Beeld. “The support we can give schools and club development is my main concern.”

The Kings have already lost their director of rugby Alan Solomons, who will be joining Edinburgh as head coach. There are also four players who will reportedly join the Bulls should the Kings not be able to retain their Super Rugby status.

Their academy, which has sourced 65% of its players from the Eastern Cape, could also be affected as players will look for franchises that will offer them Super Rugby opportunities.

To survive, the Kings had to beat the Lions by eight points or more after losing 26-19 in Port Elizabeth last week. They signed a sponsorship deal with construction company Aveng Group that only applies if they continue to participate in Super Rugby.

Eastern Province Rugby Union president Daniel “Cheeky” Watson did not pick up his phone. By email, the SA Rugby Union did not reveal whether they will continue to fund the relegated team.

“All the franchises are funded on an equal basis, primarily from broadcast rights income,” the response read.

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