The Kings look set to replace the Lions in next year’s Super Rugby tournament regardless of where the Johannesburg side finishes on the log.
This is if the South African Rugby Union (Saru) implements a decision that was made at their last executive council meeting which stipulates that the Lions will be “automatically relegated” if they do not resolve a long standing dispute with their estranged franchise partners – the Pumas and Leopards.
According to official documentation in possession of The New Age, the Lions have until the end of this season to come to an agreement with their partners who this week confirmed that negotiations relating to the repayment of outstanding broadcasting fees have failed.
“Our endeavours to resolve this matter out of court has been unsuccessful and we have been left with no choice but to arbitrate,” Leopards president Andre May said yesterday.
Lions president Kevin de Klerk insisted that the union would deal with the franchise partnership issues on a separate platform as it has no influence on their plight to retain their Super Rugby status.
However, Saru documentation that was approved by the 14 unions that – in a unanimous vote encouraged the inclusion of the Kings – stipulates the following: “After they had considered the dispute between the Lions, Pumas and the Leopards and the failure of the parties to resolve the matter by December 2, 2011, the Executive Council at a meeting held on January 17 agreed to deal with the participation in Super Rugby 2012 matter as follows: Lions would participate in Super Rugby 2012.
The impasse between the Lions and the Pumas and Leopards needs to be resolved by the end of February 2012 and until the matter is resolved:
a) Broadcast revenue payments are to be withheld from the Lions
b) Payments of R750k each be made to the Pumas and Leopards
c) Automatic relegation from Super Rugby at the end of 2012 Super Rugby competition for the Lions.
The argument that the Kings decision was made under the impression that a 16th team would be included holds no water as the same representative unions approved the multi-million broadcasting deal that was presented by Sanzar in 2010.
Saru, the Kings and the current SA teams participating in Super Rugby met in Johannesburg yesterday to find a solution to what has become a pressing matter for all parties involved.
“It is a complex issue with no easy answers and we are determined to leave no stone unturned in finding that answer,” Saru CEO Jurie Roux said in a statement.
“A number of options were discussed but there is currently no preferred alternative to recommend to the General Council.”
Another meeting between the relevant parties is scheduled to take place on Monday even though yesterday’s meeting was not sanctioned by the Lions franchise partners.
“The Golden Lions were represented in today’s (yesterday) meeting, not the Lions franchise partners and along with the Pumas we have voiced our concerns to Saru on this matter,” said May.