Game of wait and see

2012-11-15 00:00

#THATAKWARDMOMENT — the greeting for John Mitchell as he returned to work with the Lions.

But — and big but — has he actually returned to “work” at Doornfontein or is it all smoke and mirrors?

The last word from the Lions on Mitchell’s return was on November 9 from Golden Lions Rugby Union CEO, Ruben Moggee: “The Golden Lions Rugby Union can announce today that they have met with John Mitchell and have discussed the relevant matters following his suspension earlier the season. John will join the team when they return for their pre-season next week. There will be no further comment on the matter.”

I don’t think the Lions could have handled this case any worse and by slamming the door, they open themselves for more censure.

Is it just a money thing?

Is it too costly to pay Mitchell out or will they face a damages claim?

Mitchell has been vindicated of all charges through a legal process, but this could be his way of making the Lions uncomfortable for making him uncomfortable with the unwarranted suspension and who can blame him?

If he walks away, he walks away with nothing, if he stays, the Lions have to deal with it or pay him to go.

Also, where do the Sale Sharks fit into all of this as Mitchell was reportedly appointed to their Strategy Board and was in line for the head coaching job with the English club?

So, it could be a game of wait and see.

But it is drawing closer to Armageddon for the Lions, with random fixtures, no broadcast deal, an unsettled coach with a permanent/rental list of players pretending to gear up for a 2013 season.

And no guarantees of Super Rugby in 2014.

How sad is that and it’s no thanks to South African Rugby!

Leadership in sport should require putting the interests of the country and the athletes first (another pipe dream) and refrain from politicising it. Right now, all we are seeing is the Kings being used as a fickle political pawn to show that SA Rugby is committed to transforming the sport.

Oh, and the SA Rugby Transformation Indaba which was a “big success” — just ask the back slapping role players and media spin doctors.

If only Saru would treat the cause and not the symptoms.

But surely, there had to be path into Europe for the Lions that would have been more lucrative and more sponsorable than what they currently have on the table?

Prior to the Currie Cup next year, the Lions will play “friendlies” against the Bulls, Stormers, Cheetahs, Russia, Glasgow Warriors, Agen, Grenoble, Samoa, Montpellier, French Barbarians, Texas Cup champions, U.S. Barbarians (California), U.S. Barbarians (Vancouver) and a Super Rugby promotion playoff, that’s if Saru don’t move the goalposts again.

The U.S. Baabaas? Yankee doodle dandy — get me a hotdog and some fries and let’s go to the ballpark!

Getting bums on seats at Ellis Park has been hard enough during the past Super Rugby seasons. What are the chances now of filling the stadium with one-off meaningless friendlies?

A key issue is that the GLRU must revert in the next couple of weeks to the suite holders with the game plan for next season.

The suite holders, who represent 35% of the Lions revenue stream.

So, where are the value added games? Not some wimpy pick me up fixtures that will cost the Lions R2 million each to invite and host?

Ten games at R2 million each is a lot to outlay from the bare coffers.

As one Lions fan put it: “The fact remains, we are out of S15 and I do not think we will be coming back until the competition expands. Saru will probably renege on the playoff match promise, just as they reneged on NOT hurting another union to accommodate the Kings. Even if the playoff match were to happen, with half our star players gone and the rest on loan to other franchises — what chance do we have of being able to field a credible, settled team for the most important match in the union’s history? Promotion/relegation should be automatic, just as it has been for the Kings and this is something that I feel the Lions should be fighting or suing for.”

I’m also one of those Lions fans that would love nothing more than to see them up and prosperous and not continuously on the receiving end. But something needs to change. Just ask John Mitchell, Dick Muir, Eugene Eloff and Carlos Spencer, to name a few …

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