Cape Town – The wellbeing of professional teams the Stormers and Western Province will be front of mind to Peter Jooste should the SARU non-racial playing legend earn the nod as WP president in elections on Monday, he says.
Incumbent Thelo Wakefield steps down after a six-year tenure in the hot seat and club delegates will have a choice between Jooste and current deputy president Zelt Marais as the successor at financially crisis-torn Newlands.
Marais, who also heads the financial committee, on Thursday outlined to Sport24’s Lloyd Burnard his vision for the presidency, including denial of several aspects of earlier reports that he planned 25 percent pay cuts for staff in the professional arm, with even blue-chip players at risk – he said the proposal was “never intended to operate on a player level”.
But Jooste, who is currently on business in Johannesburg, has now outlined his own aspirations in a detailed statement.
He said: “The financial stability and sustainability of the Western Province Rugby Union, the DHL Stormers, DHL Western Province and all of our provincial teams are paramount and will be the key focus of my attention, should the WP rugby fraternity elect me as their next president.
“Given our current state of affairs, it goes without saying that WP Rugby is in urgent need of a sound financial turnaround – it must be a realistic strategy that is both achievable and measurable.
“Together with the Union executive and WP board of directors, we will put a strategy in place with the well-being of every club player, professional contracted players and our hard-working staff and administration in mind.”
Jooste, who has been the convener of the Springbok selection panel since 2004, says he wants WP Rugby to be the strongest franchise in the country, “underpinned by good governance, financial strength to maintain and increase investment in the game and to effectively implement and drive elite performances”.
Another vital component would be to revive club and school participation across the province.
“My (wish) is to develop and implement a common shared vision for both the Union and Company, and develop the DHL Stormers as the strongest rugby franchise in South Africa in the short term while in the long term establish the franchise as the strongest of its kind in world rugby.
“Those are lofty ambitions, but I have no doubt we have both the player resources, spectator-base support and administrative capability to achieve these colossal tasks.
“Sound administrative work, financial discipline and success on the field will no doubt be attractive to potential corporate investment, which is so important for the game.”
Jooste said Newlands had proved previously that it could attract “phenomenal” average crowds of 40,000 during Super Rugby, and that there was no reason they could not return to such heights.
“But in order to get there, it’s going to require some hard choices, the kind we can no longer postpone or just plainly ignore: burying our heads in the sand is both foolhardy and sure recipe for disaster.”
The Tygerberg Rugby Club supremo said booming advances in the digital age needed to be acknowledged in presentation of the product on major home match-days.
“The digital age has changed the way we consume and experience products, services and entertainment: those winds of change have hit the sporting industry with menacing speed.
“That means we will have to change our approach in terms of the match-day experience offering and, most importantly, how we market the game to our loyal current supporters and the huge untapped market.”
According to Jooste, there is a “dangerously wrong perception” in the public domain that clubs are supposedly, and recklessly, managing the affairs of WP Rugby.
“What is an undeniable fact is that clubs are an important stakeholder in WP rugby as per our union constitution. While the general meeting of the Union is the highest decision-making authority in the organisation, it must be seen in the context of fulfilling a similar relationship as a shareholder of a company.
“The business of professional rugby is managed and controlled by the WP Rugby Board of Directors, and in doing so the Board subscribe to the agreed conduct of good corporate governance.
“The reality is that we must right-size the organisation to meet operational requirements and deliver key measurable targets in terms of our turnaround strategy.”
Jooste said he was willing to “lead from the front, embrace all stakeholders who are willing to play a part, and lead WP Rugby to its rightful place in the South African rugby fraternity”.
Considered the more out-and-out “rugby man” in the two-horse race, Jooste moved to allay any notion that he would not be able to match rival Marais’s financial savvy – he is head of tax tranfer pricing at Nedbank – as WP boss.
He said he had been successful in business personally for around 20 years; he has a manufacturing/paper-converting company with plants in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.
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