Amidst all the hype and fanfare and labelled the best Super 14 tournament ever, seemingly the glory and honeymoon phase are over, with the aftermath leaving a bitter taste for all rugby loving supporters, well that’s according some news reports.
The Eastern Cape Super 14 Rugby Competition is regarded as the flagship tournament in the province, not only the monetary value in prizes, but the media hype, exposure to a semi-professional set-up and most importantly the social cohesion it brings between supporters and their clubs. It takes rugby from the best facilities in your suburban areas and open our eyes with the crumbling playing conditions in our rural areas. Most importantly it pits the best that Border Rugby can offer against the cream of Eastern Province rugby with the ultimate prize, to be crowned the best team in the province.
So, in a matter of two months, that feels like a distant dream, with wide spread media coverage of non-payment of prizes. Is it a matter of poor administration or genuine organizational glimpses that led to the delay? The final was played at BCM Stadium on the 14th March where Progress stunned local favourites Swallows 28-24. The reward, a hefty R60 000.00 pay day with the runners-up taking home R40 000.00, the losing semi-finalist earmarked to receive R25 000.00 each and the rest of the teams R15 000.00.
Its well documented that rugby bosses of both Swallows and Progress made scathing media statements eluding to the fact that they have not received any payments yet. One should also be reminded that not only the two clubs is affected but the entire 14 clubs that participated. Is this a genuine concern or just to get public empathy and sympathy? What is more concerning the breach in tournament rules which can lead to a suspension from future tournaments. For bringing the competition into disrepute is a clear violation of the competition rules as per rule 4.6 which states.
4.6 Media Interactions
(a) The only appointed individuals to speak on behalf of the competition is the Tournament Director or anyone mandated by him to do so.
(c) All clubs are encouraged to interact with the media only to promote their clubs and matches and may not in any way make statements or utterances that may denigrate the status of the Competition or officials. A breach of this rule may be seen as serious misconduct and may attract a sanction after appearing in front of the Judicial Sub-Committee.
There is contradicting statements coming from the two clubs in mention. Progress Rodney Josephs vehemently denies the report in the Daily Dispatch stating he clearly told the reporter that there was a communique from the tournament director that the money will be paid, but instead, the reporter created his own story. On the other hand, Swallows boss Zuko Matyeshana insist there was no communication. When asked about Rule 4.6 about media statements he said, “I was asked a question by a Daily Dispatch reporter whether we have received our prize-money, which I responded no, I couldn’t lie.
We did not approach the media and it is not during the duration of the tournament”.
Speaking to Phumelela Hlati, the Tournament Director, amidst all the accusations of non-payment, he said. All clubs were kept in the loop of the payments. A communique was sent out on the 17 th March to all club bosses on the S14 group stating that all payments will be made on or before the 27 th March 2020. The unfortunate thing is on the 23th March the
lockdown was announced which came into effect on the 26 th March. I am residing in Komani and the office is based in East London and there was travelling restrictions imposed. Because sport is non-essential, I had no permit to travel”
When asked why payments was made only in East London and could it not be done via a laptop or other mediums. Hlati stated that the prize money was ring fenced so that it doesn’t get lost with all the numerous transactions they make. He said “The two signatories, me and the president must be present to access the account. All payments of Super 14 were
either done on Tuesday or Wednesday and I had to go down to the office to process them. That is what has been happening from the beginning of the tournament. Payments were done at the office. I have limited ability to do transactions on the go”.
Late payments are not something new as there was also late payments in 2019. One could argue this year that no sport is being played at this point and time, so the urgency of payments is totally different.
Is there a conspiracy theory levelled against the organizers of the tournament? One must look back at the furore and uproar caused by Swallows supporters when the final was moved from NU1 Stadium in Mdantsane to BCM Stadium with the aftermath vocal altercations on social media, including a lengthy letter by Swallows Supporters Club. That too fuelling an emotional attachment of the community of Mdanstane, robbing them of staging a final at their door step. With Progress denying the statements in the media, questions would still be raised what they would gain in the whole debacle.
Fact is, there is no record stating any team was never paid what is due to them from previous competitions, albeit late or in time. Could this whole issue have been resolved by virtue of a phone call? So far only one club, Harlequins, formally asked for clarity just before lockdown via an email send to the organisers. The media spat have had a positive outcome, with Mkhululi Magada ensuring to organize a permit for Hlathi so that payments could be made on Friday.
For now, we are facing an interesting couple of days, weeks, months. Could we see the both finalists been absconded from the tournament for voicing their dissatisfaction in the media in clear violation of the competition’s rules, if found guilty. What measures will the steering committee take to remedy the situation for future tournaments. Was this even necessary as it not only paints a bleak prospect for the competition but could negatively impact the funding for future tournaments.