Foul play brings down the Lions

2011-07-09 18:19

The ground-breaking deal between the Golden Lions Rugby Union and the Guma TAC group is all but dead and buried.

Hailed as one of the best partnerships ever in rugby when it was unveiled in October last year, the deal came crashing down last week when an acrimonious spat ensued between the parties involved.

Even the optimism and efforts of Minister of Sports and Recreation Fikile Mbalula to save the deal seem to be in vain.

Mbalula told City Press on Friday: “I am going to engage the two parties and look at the possibility of salvaging the deal. We hope to meet next week and then make a full statement after deliberations.”

However the representatives of the two parties, Robert Gumede of Guma and the union’s president Kevin de Klerk, appeared to be on a completely different page.

Gumede fired the first salvo when he said the deal could only be resuscitated once the South African Rugby Union and the Gauteng union’s clubs had investigated the “mis-management of the Lions, in particular since 2006, and the current inept executive committee, as well as the chief executive are replaced with a competent executive committee and a tried and tested competent chief executive.”

De Klerk also seemed to have lost patience. He remarked: “Given what has happened, it would be impossible for this deal to be resuscitated.”

He went on to say that he had told union sponsors at a briefing on Thursday: “This is a business transaction that never worked. We must both walk our separate ways and forget this.”

De Klerk, who was praised by both Gumede and his partner, businessman Ivor Ichijkowitz, for the way he had handled himself through the negotiations, said he was gutted by the way things turned out.

“This is a sad day,” he sighed. “We were in the deal right up to the end and just needed a few points to be clarified.”

He said they were shocked at the announcement made by Guma TAC at a press conference last week.

“They really pulled us down terribly in what I regard as the worst PR exercise I have ever seen.”

While denying most of the accusations made by Guma TAC, De Klerk admitted that they were approached to sell Ellis Park and considered it.
“But this was a long process as we had to keep all our stakeholders informed.”

On the members of the Golden Lions Sports Trust asking to be paid what was in the kitty for them to resign, De Klerk said: “The amount was R300 000 and all that some trustees asked for was to be reimbursed for costs incurred in attending meetings, as some of them came from far away.”

He said the money was still in the account and would probably be used for Lions business.

On the R16 million Gumede said they had advanced to the Lions, De Klerk said he believed the amount was considerably lower than that but they were still reconciling their books and once this was done, they would engage in negotiations on how to pay back the money.

Gumede and Ichikowitz indicated that they would still love to get involved in rugby, a sport they both loved.

This week, De Klerk said “fighting in sport hurts young people who wonder why adults are fighting when all they want is to play.” 

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