WP stadium move: ‘Covert talks’ blasted

WP Rugby logo (File)
WP Rugby logo (File)

Cape Town - Aerios, the commercial partner at costly legal loggerheads with cash-strapped WP Rugby, say they are being unfairly stonewalled in their quest for information over the rumoured move from Newlands to Cape Town Stadium.

In a statement on Wednesday, they said the City of Cape Town, who own and administer the latter venue, had refused their request under the Promotion of Access to Information Act for “documents relating to the tenders and/or sale of Newlands and the move by the Union … to Cape Town Stadium”.

Aerios, embroiled in a much-publicised, more than year-long multi-million-rand advertising rights dispute with WP Rugby, also sought information over the process from them, the Provincial Department of Sport and the National Department of Sport.

Now they say they are “once again being forced to embark on litigation to obtain information to which the ratepayers of Cape Town and supporters of Western Province rugby are clearly entitled”, according to Aerios’s chief executive Costas Constantinou.

He added: “The City and WP Rugby are remaining tight-lipped about their ongoing discussions to move … despite indications that (the talks) may have reached an advanced stage.

“The Union, which claims to pride itself on good corporate governance and accountability, responded to our notice by stating that it was not obliged to furnish the information requested because it is not a public body.

“The City has also refused to provide any information at all – it has stated that some of the documents requested are not in its possession and that the remaining documentation is refused on the basis that making (it) available would interfere with an unspecified ‘deliberative process’ within the City which relates to City policy.”

Constantinou said it was surprising that the City “would rather litigate than play open cards with its constituency regarding its plans for the Cape Town Stadium”.

He was “determined to bring to light the covert negotiations which have been conducted between the City and the Union”.

The former company which ran WP Rugby’s commercial interests was controversially liquidated in late 2016, and is the subject of an ongoing Section 417 inquiry into its affairs.

Aerios have also laid fraud-related criminal charges against the directors of WP Rugby, which fully owns Newlands.

They claim that if the sale of assets by Newco (the follow-up business division created by WP Rugby) are set aside, WP Rugby may have no assets left.

“It seems unthinkable that entities will enter into an agreement with the WP Rugby Union with so much ongoing litigation taking place,” said Constantinou.

“Have the City, the sponsors, investors and other stakeholders considered that they may be investing in, or partnering with, an entity which may end up with nothing if the proceedings against the former commercial entity are successful?

“It appears that the Union has been looking to sell Newlands since its relations with its equity partner Remgro Sports Investments soured toward the end of 2017; it is doubtful (it) will be able to pay the vast sums it owes Remgro unless it releases its largest asset, the stadium.”

Approached for comment by Sport24, Zara Nicholson, spokesperson for the Executive Mayor, said in a statement: “The City of Cape Town cannot pre-empt the outcome of discussions it is having with the WPRU.”

WP Rugby have also been invited to respond.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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