SA Rugby has advised the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) that it was invoking its constitutional power to take administrative control of the union.
The advice was provided following a decision by the Executive Council (Exco) of the South African Rugby Union on Monday.
Experienced former SA Rugby CEO, Rian Oberholzer, has been appointed as an administrator and will assume oversight of the union’s affairs immediately. His remit includes supervision of the operational affairs of Western Province (Pty) Ltd, which manages the professional playing teams of the Stormers and Western Province.
The president of Western Province, Zelt Marais, was informed of the decision on Tuesday morning.
SA Rugby president, Mark Alexander, said the decision had been taken with extreme reluctance.
“We had engaged with the WPRFU over a number of months on the challenges the organisation faced and tried to assist them in finding solutions,” said Alexander.
“We attempted to partner in a joint oversight committee but were frustrated in our attempts to receive accurate information and engage constructively.
‘The last resort’
“However, the union has regressed in its attempts to extricate itself from those challenges and we could no longer stand by.
“This is very much the last resort, but it had become apparent that the union’s leadership was incapable of putting in place the actions to regularise its position.
“Several of the union’s stakeholders have contacted our offices to express their dismay and we are aware of the public alarm.
“Clause 29 of the constitution of the South African Rugby Union charges that all unions have to ‘conduct their business affairs in such a way that, at all times, they are in a sound financial position, comply with the laws of the Republic and adhere to the requirements of good governance’.
“It is Exco’s view that WPRFU has failed that test and we could no longer distribute SA Rugby income in that knowledge. On that basis we have taken this decision with a heavy heart.”
The powers of clause 29 allow for the “assumption of responsibility for the affairs of unions…[including] the suspension from office of their elected and/or appointed officials, and the appointment by SARU of administrators, who shall assume all decision-making powers of the unions at both governance and operational levels, and who shall have the authority to direct employees, including chief executive officers, on a day to day basis, such administrators to report and be accountable to and to take direction from the executive council.”
Alexander said that all stakeholders – the union’s commercial partners, broadcaster, coaching staff, players’ union and Vodacom United Rugby Championship partners – had been advised of the decision.
He assured supporters that the appointment of an administrator was to stabilise the Union’s governance and operational business and was not to have any direct influence on DHL Stormers affairs.
“Clause 29 gives us the authority to remain in administration until the union’s affairs are stabilised,” said Alexander.
“It is not possible right now to put a timeline to that – although it is our intention and desire to make this process as short-lived as possible.
“The most important thing right now is to quietly go about the off-field business so that coach John Dobson and the Stormers squad can focus on performing to their best in their debut season in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.”