eThekwini Municipality (Durban) bosses seem determined to persuade the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union (KZNRU) to move from their Absa Stadium home across the road to the city’s new Moses Mabhida complex.
However, the KZNRU and their professional arm The Sharks (Pty) Ltd, have made it clear they are not ready for such a big step – to move away from a venue they have called home for the past 50 years.
Rugby 365 reports that recent media reports, quoting senior members of the eThekwini Municipality, suggested the Sharks would have to move.
Julie-May Ellingson, the head of strategic projects in the eThekwini Municipality, said this week they will start the sale of corporate suites at the new stadium within the next eight weeks and hopefully will have reached a decision with the Sharks before then.
“We have mooted two price structures in case the Sharks don’t make their decision timeously. But ultimately they will have to move and then we will notify the tenants of the changed pricing structure at that time,” she told the Durban-based Mercury newspaper.
However, the Sharks dismissed this, making it clear they are not going to be rushed into any decision.
Brian van Zyl, Chief Executive Officer of The Sharks (Pty) Ltd, said in a statement on Thursday that they have had “ongoing discussions” with the City in regard to the Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“At this point in time The Sharks do not have sufficient information to make an informed decision or even contemplate relocation,” Van Zyl said in a terse statement.
“In any event such a decision will require in depth consultation with all stakeholders, which include suite holders, season ticket holders, sponsors and most importantly the KwaZulu Natal Rugby Union and Sharks equity partner SuperSport,” he concluded.
The reason for the municipality’s almost intransigent stance on the issue is that the new Moses Mabhida-stadium – currently under construction for the 2010 Soccer World Cup – may turn out to be a white elephant that could prove hard to maintain.
The municipality – the owner of the facility – is aware that it would not be financially possible for soccer clubs to use the stadium on their own.
Ellingson confirmed that they plan to use the stadium for rugby, soccer and athletic events.
“It is not financially viable that the stadium be used exclusively for soccer,” she told news24 in a recent interview.
Professor Ronnie Schloss, Chief Operations Officer of the Premier Soccer League (PSL), also said that it “would not be possible for soccer clubs to maintain the stadium in Durban on their own”.
“Ticket prices for soccer matches are only ZAR20 each, so gate takings would probably not even cover the security costs of the stadium.”
The Sharks are renting their current premises, Absa Stadium, on a long-term basis with a contract that only expires in 2056.
The initial plan was, according to Ellingson, to upgrade the existing Absa Park stadium for 2010 at an estimated cost of ZAR350m, but the plan was axed in favour of the new stadium.
While Ellingson has stated that their negotiations with the Sharks are “progressing well” and they are convinced it would be concluded “within the next few months”, the Sharks are equally determined to ensure they can continue to reap the financial benefits they get from being the ‘owners’ of the 52,000-seater Absa Stadium.Tweet