The Lions deal: It’s about time

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Lions, Original Content on 8 Oct 2010 at 09:46
Tagged with : ,

The recent acquisition of just about half of the Golden Lions Rugby Union’s commercial arm is a move long overdue.

I can only speculate what necessitated this move by the Lions because to be honest, their management in recent times never seemed the most forward-thinking but nevertheless, I believe this could be a watershed moment for rugby in South Africa.

As the media release read; ‘Now we can have business people looking after the business side of rugby, and rugby people after the rugby side’.

It might be oversimplifying a very complex issue but essentially, this is just what professional sport should be all about.

Of course my wish is that this is just the first step in a major drive to make the game of rugby more professional, but at least this is a start.

It is an argument raised many times before where South Africa is suffering as a rugby nation because we have rugby people trying to make business decisions and apart from being quite poor at this, they cannot detach themselves emotionally from important issues where an amateurish spite is more the norm in decisions made in rugby than logical business decisions.

You see from a business perspective your first priority is to look after your assets, ensuring that as a business, you produce a great product you are trying to sell television networks or essentially, the rugby public.

If this happens from the top you have a domino effect going down all the way to the very bottom, where not only the people in the boardroom conduct themselves professionally, but it would then also be expected that any staff member and essentially, the playing and coaching staff do exactly the same because if you don’t, you need to ship out.

For too long have administrators, coaches and even players enjoyed a free ride in what is, and make no mistake, a very lucrative business, at the expense of the game and effectively, the paying public.

Of course what I would effectively love to see is business consortiums, like the Guma Group and TransAfrica Capital actually bidding and owning the Super rugby franchises where they will enter into partnerships with local (regional) union(s) taking the responsibility of investing back into unions to produce quality players and coaches, but for the first time I believe we are at least moving in the right direction.

This should not only be exciting times for the Lions rugby union and Lions fans, but an exciting event for all of us because if this actually comes off, we might just see the birth, or as some would like to think, the re-birth of South African Rugby as the powerhouse of world rugby.


  • Morne, did we not talk about this one night after the podcast recording? We compared Rugby ownership here to the ownership of the Premier League Football clubs.

    This is a step inthe right direction in my opinion.

    Good read Morne, as always.

  • Comment 1, posted at 08.10.10 09:55:02 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • On the whole, I agree its good for the game. But it does increase the possibility of province v union conflict. For example, will business-controlled unions accept the resting of Boks mid-season?

  • Comment 2, posted at 08.10.10 09:56:03 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 1) : But Rugby is not soccer…. It is much more demanding. Thus have to agree more with @Big Fish (Comment 2) :

  • Comment 3, posted at 08.10.10 10:01:11 by SharksRTB Reply

  • @Big Fish (Comment 2) :

    There will have to be some form of an agreement for the contracted Boks. But it will come down to the same disputes as the Premier League soccer teams have when their stars get called up for international duty.

    We shall have to wait and see if they can make it work.

  • Comment 4, posted at 08.10.10 10:01:27 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 1) :

    We did.

    @Big Fish (Comment 2) :

    You mean franchise v. union?

    That is a topic all on its own but I don’t think so.

    Remember franchises will not ‘own’ unions, they would contract players from unions for Super rugby.

    Effectively this will also apply to SA Rugby who in my view should only look after national rugby interests or players at all levels (age groups).

    Unions’ job will essentially be to develop players through their structures (schools, clubs etc) for franchise and SA Rugby.

    Franchises in turn will have to invest in unions to ensure they are capable to do this.

    Unions operate in domestic structures (CC, VC, Varsity Cup, etc) only, franchises in Super rugby, SA Rugby at international/test rugby, all contracting and ‘selling off’ their assets (players) to the next level. The more they (unions) produce (quality players), the more money they make.

  • Comment 5, posted at 08.10.10 10:03:46 by Morné Reply
  • This is brilliant. Now lets see the Lions sign some big names!

  • Comment 6, posted at 08.10.10 10:06:51 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 4) :

    The difference is that football teams do not play when there’s a round of international games taking place.

    The players who remain behind train with their respective clubs but there are no league or competitive games during that period.

  • Comment 7, posted at 08.10.10 10:14:14 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 7) :

    Agreed. But we dont have 5 NZ internationals, 5 Aus internationals and a bunch of Boks. There are only SA players and they are already not available for parts of the season anyway.

  • Comment 8, posted at 08.10.10 10:17:48 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • Quick general question..

    How many of the NZ international players are available for their ITM clubs now? I see a few names here and there that I recognise, but it is not all of them?

  • Comment 9, posted at 08.10.10 10:20:34 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 9) :

    In total 17 players from the squad was released for their ITM Cup, but even then, it was a systematic procedure where some guys were released to play immediately, but others only 2, 3 or 4 weeks down the line.

    It was all dependent on how much rugby they played already – a scientific approach if you will.

  • Comment 10, posted at 08.10.10 10:28:39 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 5) : what’s the difference between union and franchise ?

  • Comment 11, posted at 08.10.10 10:30:15 by rekinek Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 11) :

    Super rugby in this country is actually supposed to be a regional, or franchise competition, detached from any one union.

    For instance, the Cheetahs Franchise is actually a partnership between the unions of the Freestate Cheetahs, Griquas and Griffons, so too are the Lions, Bulls and Stormers in respective partnerships with other (smaller) unions. The only franchise that does not have partner unions are the Sharks.

    We all know however, that the Blue Bulls control or ‘own’ the Bulls franchise, WP the Stormers, Freestate the Cheetahs etc.

    In essence, the Big 5 unions own the 5 allocated franchises, which defies the purpose of a franchise in essence.

  • Comment 12, posted at 08.10.10 10:34:37 by Morné Reply
  • as long as this means we can get rid of de Klerk and Reynecke, so much the better!

  • Comment 13, posted at 08.10.10 10:36:12 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 12) : the sharks are just different .. 😀

    thanx for explanation .. I understood Fish’s comment being more about conflict between union and SARU though.

  • Comment 14, posted at 08.10.10 10:38:30 by rekinek Reply
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  • Great! Some more okes to piss off Hadrol Verster by buying players!
    Seriously though, it sounds like a great idea with awesome potential (if managed properly).

  • Comment 15, posted at 08.10.10 10:39:19 by Crock Reply

  • This IS a good thing, I would find it surprising if this was necessated by a shortage of money though. The Lions have not been shy in their rumoured offers this season.

    OR have they been spending the money before getting it?

  • Comment 16, posted at 08.10.10 10:43:04 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 16) :

    Quite likely…

  • Comment 17, posted at 08.10.10 10:49:07 by Morné Reply
  • Referring to the rugby players looking after the rugby matters, we need to see more mentor/player/coaching roles fulfilled like Carlos Spencer is doing.
    Guys like John Smit (even Victor too) can offer so much more to the game than talking rubbish on TV.

  • Comment 18, posted at 08.10.10 10:49:28 by Crock Reply

  • @wpw (Comment 7) : Football may not be a good example. rather use English club rugby as an example. They DO still play club rugby during the 6nations.

  • Comment 19, posted at 08.10.10 10:49:35 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @rekinek (Comment 14) :

    Another explanation, it is a different ‘legal’ entity (franchises from unions)

  • Comment 20, posted at 08.10.10 10:49:47 by Morné Reply
  • I did write a post on sometihng similar to the topic:
    Wanted to post it up here, but I dont know how ❓

  • Comment 21, posted at 08.10.10 10:50:58 by Mocho Reply

  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 19) : there are just so many rugby players around and of good quality that I do not see the reason of stopping local competitions because national team is playing or resting.

  • Comment 22, posted at 08.10.10 10:51:10 by rekinek Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 20) : 😆
    actually different TYPE of legal entity – though I doubt franchise is a legal entity per se. but this says nothing. preferred your previous explanation.

  • Comment 23, posted at 08.10.10 10:52:49 by rekinek Reply
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  • @Mocho (Comment 21) : go to the contact us section and send Rob, clayton or myself an email and we’ll set you up.

  • Comment 24, posted at 08.10.10 11:14:50 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • How much did they pay for their share?

  • Comment 25, posted at 08.10.10 11:21:06 by McLovin Reply

  • @McLovin (Comment 25) :

    Rumors suggest R80-million

  • Comment 26, posted at 08.10.10 11:22:41 by Morné Reply
  • Surely this is nothing new. Aren’t the Bulls & WP and I’m sure other unions in a similiar boat?

    And how much power do they have as they own less than 50%?

  • Comment 27, posted at 08.10.10 11:23:22 by McLovin Reply

  • @Morné (Comment 26) : Thanks. Do we know how much the other unions are worth?

  • Comment 28, posted at 08.10.10 11:25:48 by McLovin Reply

  • @McLovin (Comment 27) :

    SAIL has quite substantial interest in most unions, what that is I am not sure.

    @McLovin (Comment 28) :

    Depends on a number of things, for one WP Rugby is the only union to own their stadium, which will increase the organisation’s value I would imagine.

  • Comment 29, posted at 08.10.10 11:31:36 by Morné Reply
  • Morne, I meant Unions.

    You touched on the problem that the current Super franchises are controlled by the major Unions. I imagine this is going to be exacerbated by the presence of big business, only this time, Unions will become controlled by the franchises, who control the purse strings, and are better corporate politicians.

    I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but clearly business will be focused on short-term profitability, and this does not often align with Bok interests. To say there will be agreements etc doesn’t really answer the question – since when do agreements resolve issues involving money?

    I do think this is a good thing, but the key will be how the conflicts are managed.

  • Comment 30, posted at 08.10.10 13:42:29 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 30) : isnt this the same thing that happened at SWD? now that there is a power struggle (conflict) between the business arm and the union, no player is getting payed…

  • Comment 31, posted at 08.10.10 15:06:22 by VanWilder Reply

  • Hahaha everyones happy about this till an idiot buys your team ,everyone ones exicited about this but not all business men are qualified to run a rugby team .This is a wait an see situation there needs to be parity in sa rugby though .Saru will have to implement a draft style system and some sort of revenue sharing system .Professionlism comes at a price as much the unions mess up I like the current system money messes up everything ,be careful what u thankful for

  • Comment 32, posted at 08.10.10 19:41:17 by zvision10 Reply

  • Will be interesting to see how this shapes up. Already we have heard the answer to the question about transformation from the new owner. He said: this is a business.

    Meaning, I hope, the right guy for the job. When the Lions do not pick 15 starting people of colour will there be an outcry or will common sense prevail? Unfortunately I see the former rather than the latter…

  • Comment 33, posted at 09.10.10 09:18:31 by goyougoodthing2 Reply

  • @goyougoodthing2 (Comment 33) : chap, we don’t discuss race on this site. Please refrain from that sort of comment in future… it will make everything run a lot smoother 🙂

  • Comment 34, posted at 09.10.10 09:25:30 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 34) : ok, head in the sand stuff, got ya. SA is rosy 🙂

  • Comment 35, posted at 09.10.10 09:27:36 by goyougoodthing2 Reply

  • @goyougoodthing2 (Comment 35) : them’s the rules, boss. They’re clearly described here and they exist for a good reason. I take a dim view of it when I issue the politest, friendliest warning possible and get sass in return.

  • Comment 36, posted at 09.10.10 09:49:13 by robdylan Reply
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  • Head in the sand? Not really, more a case of recognising that Occam’s Razor is a convenient fiction for those uncomfortable with complexity.

    We cater for a slightly more thoughtful crowd here.

  • Comment 37, posted at 09.10.10 09:53:52 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @zvision10 (Comment 32) : Drafts in the pro era of rugby won’t work.

    It is a bit different playing for either the Chicago Bulls or the Lakers than say The Sharks or the Griffons.

    Sports entertainment in the US is huge, we know this, multi billions of dollars in salaries etc etc. Europe already pays rugby players more than we can and now you want to draft a pro from a big club and force him to play in outer Freestate? I know what I would do.

    Rugby is pro, not amateur, it is about time people realised this. It’s also not a sport at the highest level, it is sports entertainment whose reason for living is making a profit.

    We play, you pay. Simple. Not sure why everyone is stuck in the past.

    Grassroots development needs to occur at school level, that is where the government is failing all sports. Dept Of Ed surely needs to get involved here. I don’t care what sports the kids choose as long as they choose something, run around a bit and stay fit.

    But once we get to sports entertainment, there will be big Unions and small ones as we are a small country. We are NOT the USA with 300 000 000 and our 50 000 000 are poor. If we were all middle class, total different story but we are proudly trying slowly to get there.

    Not sure what this deal is going to achieve, but let’s hope something positive. SA rugby needs another strong Union. Traditionally WP and Bulls, last 15 years WP has been behind the Sharks and Bulls with Cheetahs doing their CC thing and failing at S14. The Lions need to be semi finalists in BOTH.

  • Comment 38, posted at 09.10.10 09:56:37 by goyougoodthing2 Reply

  • @Big Fish (Comment 37) : let’s move on… I’m sure the message was received. He’s a good bloke, I’m sure

  • Comment 39, posted at 09.10.10 09:58:32 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 36) :
    Didn’t read the rules before, have done now.

    @Big Fish (Comment 37) : Funny you mention the Razor and then dismiss a valid POV. Whatever.

  • Comment 40, posted at 09.10.10 10:01:26 by goyougoodthing2 Reply

  • Right, sorry chaps, don’t mean to cause. I also don’t like being told what to do, I’d make an awful employee. 🙂

    On to better things, Sharks by… 12 I reckon.

  • Comment 41, posted at 09.10.10 10:17:51 by goyougoodthing2 Reply

  • After the Lions` performance last night . .. think those business` can still pull out of the deal?
    Man that was embarrassing! 😯

  • Comment 42, posted at 09.10.10 13:37:07 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • The draft in the Nfl and Nba is set up so that the teams in the bigger markets don,t buy there way to success and the teams in smaller markets can be competitive thus bringing more money because supporters of smaller teams feel like they have a chance and support there team if players had there choice the Jacksonville jaguars or charlotte bobcats .I was talking about a draft like system where the top 20 players are sent to the weaker unions .If there isn,t parity we,ll end up with a currie cup where they,ll be the same four teams in the currie cup semi finals .

  • Comment 43, posted at 09.10.10 18:35:01 by zvision10 Reply


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