Stadiums asked for rugby’s help ‘too late’

2010-08-20 00:00

THE World Cup stadiums in Durban and Cape Town have belatedly turned to rugby to prevent their billion-rand venues from turning into white elephants.

The South African Rugby Union this week criticised the management of the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban and the Green Point Stadium in Cape Town for failing to implement a plan “before they had built the new soccer stadiums”.

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

Hoskins said there were no discussions between the Ethekweni Metro Council and the Sharks before the 70 000-capacity Moses Mabhida Stadium was built.

The council now expects rugby to use the stadium, despite the fact that it is not completely suitable.

The new stadium cannot even accommodate the number of suite holders the Sharks have 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 Greenpoint 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 had tried to become involved in managing the new stadium, but were brushed off by “the same people who became the new operators”.

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

eThekwini municipal manager Mike Sutcliffe said this week that he has “no doubt that in time Sharks rugby will be played at the new stadium”.

But Sharks officials say that repeated requests over the past two years for a business plan from the Ethekweni Metro Council 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 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 are also critical of those who planned and 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.

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

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