/ 9 July 2011

Sports minister to probe crisis at Golden Lions

A breakdown in negotiations between the Lions and former potential equity partners the Guma TAC group will be investigated by the sports minister.

A breakdown in negotiations between the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU) and former potential equity partners the Guma TAC group will be investigated by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.

“We are indeed concerned about the extent to which all the parties perceive their role in relation to transformation and unity in sport,” Mbalula said in a statement.

He met South African Rugby Union (Saru) president Oregan Hoskins this week — on the sidelines of the 123rd International Olympic Committee Session in Durban — to discuss the spoiled relationship.

Mbalula believed the partnership between the GLRU and Guma TAC had collapsed due to resistance against transformation.

“I believe there is a ploy to thwart transformation by elements within our society who have no regard for social cohesion and a united sporting fraternity,” he said.

Mbalula said he had asked Hoskins to investigate the matter and report back to him.

He had also written to GLRU president Kevin de Klerk to request a meeting for a first hand briefing on the breakdown in the GLRU’s relationship with the investors.

Negotiations ended last month after Guma TAC partners Robert Gumede and Ivor Ichikowitz sent a letter to De Klerk, leaked to the media, in which the investors gave detailed reasons for withdrawing from talks to buy a 49.9% stake in the union.

The Guma TAC partners accused the Lions’ executive of keeping them in the dark and preventing them from playing an active role at the union.

They also said they expected the Lions, who were allegedly in deep financial trouble, to pay back more than R14-million which Guma TAC had invested in the GLRU since negotiations started in October of last year.

De Klerk said in a statement that the Lions had always been “honourable in engaging with an equity partner”, and they were already in negotiations with other investors.

He also denied that the union could not meet financial commitments after Guma TAC alleged the GLRU had been unable to pay salaries and stood to lose as much as R100-million in sponsorships negotiated by Guma TAC.

“Suffice to say, we are already considering an offer from an alternative equity partner and can assure our supporters that the Lions’ 120-year legacy is not being compromised,” De Klerk said. – Sapa