Rugby sponsor worried

2010-09-17 00:00

ABSA, one of the South African Rugby Union’s (Saru’s) biggest sponsors, is upset about some predominantly white teams in the Absa Currie Cup series.

Absa’s concern about Saru’s “serious lack of commitment to transformation” has now forced Saru president Oregan Hoskins to send a letter to all the unions asking them to address this state of affairs immediately.

In the letter, which was sent to the provincial presidents and CEOs of the 14 unions earlier this week, and of which Sport24 has a copy, Hoskins asks the member provinces to do something right away about the apparent lack of transformation in teams, pointing out that Absa, as the current and future sponsor, is not satisfied with the lack of transformation in rugby.

Absa sponsors the Currie Cup series and will also be the Springboks’ new jersey sponsor when the existing contract with Sasol finishes at the end of this year, although this still has to be officially announced.

“Up to now only politicians have complained about the lack of black players in our teams, but now, for the first time, a sponsor has also expressed concern about it,” Hoskins wrote.

“If our sponsors are getting involved with this aspect of the game it has to be cause for great concern.”

Hoskins also confirms in the letter that Absa will become the new jersey sponsor. He says Saru recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Absa to become the national team’s sponsor for the next five years.

He says the composition of the provincial sides is therefore directly threatening Saru’s ability to retain the support of businesses and that this brings a “new dynamic” to rugby

He then appeals to all stakeholders to give urgent attention to this, as “it can negatively affect everyone”.

“Because teams in the Premier League get more exposure on TV it is important that transformation should receive urgent attention in those teams,” says Hoskins.

The Lions, the Blue Bulls and the Cheetahs were singled out by Hoskins.

Both the Blue Bulls and the Cheetahs started with two black players in Bloemfontein this past weekend, with one more on the substitute bench. The Lions had two black players in their starting line-up and two on the bench.

Last week Western Province rugby bosses were also involved in arguments with their provincial coaches over the few opportunities afforded black players.

In the letter it is said that Saru CEO Johan Prinsloo also brought up the issue of transformation in a recent letter to the unions.

Happy Ntshingila, Absa’s executive director of marketing and corporate affairs, said they support Saru’s efforts at promoting transformation in rugby, reports Daniëlla du Plooy.

“As sponsors we would very much like to see an acceleration of transformation in rugby, and we will support every effort to bring it about.” He praised efforts to take the sport to the townships, adding, “But we believe transformation cannot be limited to the playing field only.”

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