Trouble at the Southern Kings as the Port Elizabeth-based franchise battles on multiple fronts

Eastern Province Rugby Union Andre Rademan speaks during a press conference.
Eastern Province Rugby Union Andre Rademan speaks during a press conference.
Image: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images

What has been a difficult year for the Southern Kings on and off the field has been capped with the Port Elizabeth-based franchise being withdrawn from any planned domestic competitions.

This means the Kings will not take part in the Currie Cup should SA Rugby be able to put it together in the midst of the lockdown. Travel regulations have also curtailed Pro14 participation.

Eastern Province Rugby Union president Andre Rademan‚ who also serves as the chairman of the Southern Kings board‚ said the decision was informed by the perilous financial state the franchise finds itself in.

The Kings simply wouldn’t be able to afford to take part in a domestic tournament.

“We could opt to field the Kings in the domestic competitions mooted by SA Rugby for the sport's post-lockdown resumption if we so wished. If we did so.

"It would require additional loans to the Kings or extra investment from the shareholders to the tune of R6.5m‚ which would add to the organisation's existing substantial debt‚” Rademan said.

“However‚ as there was no contractual requirement for the Kings to resume short-term participation in the Guinness Pro14 competition‚ because of air travel restrictions‚ and as the Kings had no other commercial commitments to honour‚ the most prudent decision was to withdraw.

While the Kings have been in perpetual turbulence in their existence‚ there seemed to be a ray of sunshine and consistency when the Greatest Rugby Company in the Whole Wide World (GRC) acquired a 74 percent stake in the franchise last year.

However‚ that all unravelled in June 2019 when SA Rugby took back control of the franchise when the GRC was unable to meet contractual commitments.

The franchise was also plagued by an inability to pay salaries on time this year‚ a situation that was further exacerbated by the Covid-19-enforced lockdown that impacted severely on rugby’s finances locally and abroad.

While the Kings’ rugby year has been effectively finished by the board’s decision‚ Rademan said the players’ contracts will be honoured‚ even though financial prudence remains important.

“We had been considering further short-term contracts to see the squad through to the end of the year. But it became apparent that we would‚ for want a better phrase‚ be throwing good money after bad in the current global environment‚” Rademan said.