EP Rugby President Cheeky Watson and members of the union’s executive held a meeting with a group of Kings Rugby players, who handed over a petition at the union’s offices in Port Elizabeth on Monday morning.
Before the meeting, an unfortunate scuffle between members of the Transformation Coalition and security staff took place, after the members of the coalition tried to force their way onto the premises. Both the EP Rugby administration and the players distanced themselves from the scuffle.
Both players and administration had agreed that the issues being discussed were of a human resources nature and that the meeting was to be a closed session, with players calling for calm before the meeting began.
At no point were players locked out of EPRU offices.
Police were called to assist when Qondekile Sompondo, of Grassroots and who is not affiliated with any club structure related to the union, became physical with EP Rugby security and tried to force his way into the EPRU offices and the meeting.
The players, led by Kevin Luiters and Ronnie Cooke, handed over their petition to Watson and expressed their concerns over the arrangement with SA Rugby taking over the Southern Kings franchise for the Super Rugby season next year.
The players also distanced themselves from SARPA, saying that they felt the player’s union was not representing their best interests.
The players said they were unhappy about the fact that only some of them would be offered contracts for super rugby through SA Rugby, with the remaining players reliant on the Eastern Province Rugby Union to pay them their outstanding salaries.
The players asked Watson to try and find another solution that would allow all the players, who had been working hard throughout the year to prepare for Super Rugby, the chance to be paid and to participate.
Watson said he was well aware of the challenges that the players were facing and that the union was doing everything it could to resolve the matter.
“We are aware of the challenges that are being faced by our players,” he said.
“We have never experienced something like this before, these challenges were not foreseen and we never expected to get to this point,” he said.
Watson said he would take the players grievances to SA Rugby and revert back to the players as soon as he had feedback from SA Rugby.
Watson said he could not comment on which players were being selected for the Super Rugby franchise.
“To our knowledge no players have been approached by SA Rugby, as yet, so we don’t know which players are being offered contracts for Super Rugby next year,” he said.
Watson once again commended SA Rugby for their willingness to assist EP Rugby with the Southern Kings franchise and their willingness to get involved to ensure the future of top flight rugby remained in the region.
The petition reads:
I will not be prepared to work for EP Rugby Pty Limited, Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) or Southern Kings Pty Limited, SA Rugby Pty Limited or SARU (acting on behalf of SANZAR or EPRU) or any associated companies until such time as there is an Annual General Meeting or Extraordinary/ Special General Meeting of the EPRU in order that the order of business is as follows:
- An irrevocable pledge by EPRU and SARU that all players outstanding salaries and benefits are fully paid up on or before the 18th of December 2015
- A vote by member clubs in favour, or not in favour of the current EPRU executive Committee on or before the 12th of December 2015.
- Credible and competent rugby turnaround specialists be permitted to present proposals of a sustainable funding model in association with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Municipality on or before the 11th of December 2015
- A vote of confidence by the EPRU clubs in the new proposal and administration and management leadership to take place on or before Saturday the 12th of December.