Collegians in dire straits

2020-01-08 06:00
Collegians Rugby Club chairperson Roy Cook.PHOTO: kerushun pillay

Collegians Rugby Club chairperson Roy Cook.PHOTO: kerushun pillay

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THE historic Collegians Rugby Club is R100 000 in debt and battling to raise funding.

Its financial woes are so dire it may be just a year away from shutting down.

The 117-year-old club has had its main source of funding, a grant from the Natal Rugby Union (NRU), dry up in the past year, which has seen it clinging on desperately to survive.

The once formidable Collegians rugby team, which in the past produced at least eight Springbok stars, staved off relegation in the First Division league by just one point last season.

Roy Cook, a veteran in the KwaZulu-Natal rugby scene and who has served as an executive for the NRU, was roped in to turn around the club’s dwindling fortunes. But he has found the club in dire straits, labouring under some R100 000 in debt for jerseys, payments to its parent body, the Collegians Club and travel costs for away games.

Cook has attempted to revive the club by reaching out for monthly donations, kit sponsors, and is looking for new avenues for revenue, like getting companies to sponsor money to incentivise tries for players.

He has also reached out to schools to re-establish relationships for the club to act as a stage for highschoolers.

“I’m not a Collegians old boy, but I am a Pietermaritzburg boy,” Cook said, “and I want to revive this club.

“The number of rugby teams in this city has dropped off seriously.”

Cook said the club has to foot its own bills for travelling to away games, which can cost as much as R7 000 a bus, to medical expenses, and even for balls, pole pads and field markings. Players now have to buy their own kit.

Cook also believed the club has been through some poor administration over the years. He commended the NRU for having provided a grant in the first place, but said that drying up has put the club in a precarious position, staring down closure. Their only source of income at the moment is subscription fees from players, which many can’t afford to pay, and a small cut of the Collegians clubhouse which they use after home games.

This can bring in only about R3 000 on a good month, however.

“Many of our guys run out sockless or with short socks. Half an hour before a game we’ll find out that there isn’t the right boot size for some of the players.”

An avid amateur rugby player himself, Cook described the Collegians Rugby team in its heyday. “I never played for them, but I played against them and they were a tough team.”

He said the club had produced no fewer than eight Springbok stars, the most renowned of whom was Phllip Nel, who captained the 1937 national team to a historic victory in New Zealand against the All Blacks.

“As a capital city, we should feel proud of our local team. It’s like going to Pretoria and having no one know about Tukkies [rugby club]. Everyone there is proud of their team. I am at my wits’ end in trying to restore this club’s legacy. But I won’t just walk away.”

The NRU said there was a roadshow to inform amateur clubs about the funding issue. A spokesperson said the organisation would respond in the new year about the issue.

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