SA Rugby, the governing body of rugby union in South Africa, has unveiled a comprehensive reform package that aims to reinvigorate the sport in the country.
The General Council of SA Rugby has accepted a host of constitutional changes following the worst year in the history of the national team, the Springboks. South Africa entered 2016 having reached the semi-finals of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but proceeded to lose eight of its 12 Tests this year, including a record 57-15 home loss to New Zealand in October.
SA Rugby president Mark Alexander pledged to introduce reforms when he was elected in October and believes the new changes will have far-reaching effects in time.
In a bid to drive more revenue and business expertise into the domestic game, the reforms include the acceptance of 74-per-cent shareholdings in commercial arms of rugby unions by private equity partners. South African rugby has seen an exodus of talent to Europe and Japan in recent years with unions unable to compete with the salary packages available overseas.
Elsewhere, the presence of independent and player representation on the Executive Council will be boosted to five independents with six elected members. New committees for Super Rugby and non-franchise rugby will be introduced to focus and streamline decision making.
In a bid to align with the country’s geopolitical boundaries, there will be a move to nine members of SA Rugby, while retaining 14 playing unions. The presidential roles will be reduced from three to two by removing the vice presidency from 2018.
Alexander said: “The Council decided to open the door for greater private equity investment in rugby and greater business involvement to help recapitalise the game. We make no secret of the fact that in these tough economic times the rugby business is taking the same strain that every other South African business is facing.
“There is a battle to find and retain sponsors and supporters and we could not continue to do business in the same way. Rugby needed to make major decisions today to find new ways of doing things today and we have done that.”
He added: “The creation of the new franchise and non-franchise sub-committees gives us a more nimble way to make decisions by providing a more flexible channel of communication between unions and the Executive Council. The old committee structure has been overhauled and the new committees will make us much more responsive to the needs of rugby.
“The other changes bring us more in line with modern business practice by increasing independent representation and removing some of the anachronisms of the amateur era such as a selection committee and vice president.”
A decision on the scheduling of a proposed new format of South Africa’s showpiece domestic competition, the Currie Cup, for a seven-team Premier Division and a nine-team First Division, including Namibia, was deferred until January.