Sharks say no to Moses

2010-11-20 00:00

THE Sharks have turned their back on the glittering new Moses Mabhida Stadium and will continue playing their rugby at the King’s Park Stadium.

This was confirmed by Shark CEO Brian van Zyl yesterday and contradicts a recent statement by Durban municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe that he had “no doubt that in time Sharks rugby will be played at the new stadium”.

“The Sharks, in planning for the new season and in selling of suites and season tickets, had to end the ongoing “uncertainty and speculation in the media,” said Van Zyl.

“The Sharks will continue to operate from the Absa Stadium (King’s Park) and will not be relocating to the Moses Mabhida Stadium,” he said.

The Sharks CEO said a number of issues were taken into account in reaching the decision.

He said the long lease on the entire property only terminates in 2056.

“The Sharks (Pty) Ltd are debt-free and have financed the cost of the stadium, which is currently insured for R500 million.”

He said that in spite of numerous requests over the past few years “the Durban Municipality has not been able to provide any incentive or been able to demonstrate that The Sharks (Pty) Ltd will not be worse off should they relocate to the new stadium.”

While Absa cut their ties with the Sharks last month, Van Zyl said that a new five-year naming rights agreement for the stadium, effective from January 1, 2011, is at an advanced stage.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Thabo Mofokeng said the municipality noted the Sharks’ stance on moving to the new stadium, adding that “our doors are open for engagement with Sharks on the matter”.

Mofokeng was unable to say how much the billion-rand stadium has generated since the football World Cup , but noted that the cost of running the stadium is R500 000 a month.

The decision by the Sharks follows a similar recent announcement by the Western Province Rugby Union that it will be staying on at Newlands and not moving to the World Cup stadium at Green Point in Cape Town.

On the completion of the football World Cup both Durban and Cape Town turned their hopes to rugby to prevent their billion-rand venues from becoming white elephants.

The South African Rugby Union, in turn, criticised those managing the Moses Mabhida Stadium and the Green Point Stadium for failing to implement a plan before they had built the new soccer stadiums.

Saru president Regan Hoskins told Parliament’s sport and recreation portfolio committee that it is “tragic for us as a nation that we now have to act in reverse gear.”

Hoskins said there had been no discussions between the eThekwini Municipality and the Sharks before the 70 000-capacity Moses Mabhida Stadium was built.

The new stadium could not even accommodate the Sharks’ suite- holders at King’s Park, Hoskins added. Communication has broken down totally between the Western Province Rugby Union and SAIL, the company in charge of operating the Green Point Stadium, said Hoskins.

“I told the CEO of SAIL that it is no use when the proverbial s**t hits the fan, that you come running to SA Rugby.”

Western Province rugby boss Tobie Titus said his union and their partners have attempted to become involved in managing the new stadium, but were brushed off by “the same people who became the new operators”.

The Green Point Stadium will cost about R50 million a year to maintain, and on the advice of an independent financial adviser, Western Province Rugby would be staying at its current stadium, Newlands, Titus said.

Sharks officials say that repeated requests over the past two years for a business plan from the eThekwini Municipality have been ignored.

No indication has been received on how the stakeholders’ concerns would be addressed, or how the Sharks would be compensated for the existing asset at King’s Park if a move was made.

Hoskins said he had warned of looming problems in 2007 before the new stadiums were built.

“I wrote to the minister of sport and said I foresaw major problems coming and I asked for the intervention of the ministry,” Hoskins told the committee. “Unfortunately, we were all taken up by the soccer World Cup and in the hype we forgot we should have been talking to each other.”

“We want to use the new stadiums, Hoskins said. “We want to take the game to the people, but these issues are going to stand in our way in a big way.”

Cricket bosses were also critical of those who had built the stadiums without consultation.

South African cricket’s CEO Gerald Majola said that the playing areas at the new stadiums are too small to host cricket games. He blamed the cities for failing to consult cricket authorities before construction.

In July, a week after the World Cup ended, South African Football Association chief executive Leslie Sedibe told Parliament that football would find it extremely difficult to maintain the stadiums and make them profitable. He cited the low ticket prices for local games and the high maintenance costs of running sophisticated stadiums as major problems.

Operators are asking government for more money to maintain their stadiums, which cost nearly R10 billion to build and upgrade for the football World Cup.

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