Kings’ rugby success will not be cheap
Big question mark remains on the way forward
Managing the heightened expectations of supporters and the fears of players and coaches is always a tricky business when ambitious new owners take over ailing sports teams.
As things stand, there are more questions than answers about the way forward for the struggling Isuzu Southern Kings.
The most pressing question of all is whether the cash-flush consortium will be able to satisfy rising expectations.
This may depend on how deep their pockets are and just how much they are prepared to wager on resurrecting the franchise.
Buying rugby success does not come cheap, and wads of cash do not guarantee achieving a favourable outcome.
By this time next week, they may not even be called Southern Kings if the new owners are planning a radical re-brand.
The Kings franchise and EP Rugby Union have reached a crossroads and it is the consortium which hold all the aces after acquiring a 74% share in the franchise.
It has become apparent over the past few months that consortium chair Loyiso Dotwana and Rory Stear are emerging as the faces and frontmen for the group.
There was a series of all-day meetings at EP Rugby headquarters in December 2018 where Andre Rademan and Dotwana addressed stakeholders on the bid.
The other members of the consortium are businessmen Gary Markson, Kenny Govender and businesswoman Vuyo Zitumane. In February, it was Stear who attended EP Rugby’s annual meeting when club’s ratified the buyout deal.
This week, Dotwana and Stear were keeping their cards close to their chests when pressed about their plans for the ailing PRO14 franchise.
“We will be making various announcements, but only after contracts have been signed,” Stear said.
In a new move, the Kings PRO14 team will be run by a board consisting of four consortium members, two EPRU members and three independent directors.
The old board that ran the Kings will be dissolved by the end of March and it is unclear how the independent directors will be appointed.
The new board will have full control and there will be an agenda on the way forward.
There has been speculation that the consortium will drastically cut playing staff and changes to the coaching staff could also be on the cards.
With only four PRO14 matches left this season, everyone will want clarity on the road forward.
The new owners will also have to find a new chief operating officer to replace Charl Crous, who will be leaving for Ireland later in 2019 to work for PRO14 in Dublin.
Invitations, entitled “The Way Forward”, give some clue on what the owners are planning for the promotional bash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Thursday.
It is a measure of how far the Kings have fallen that they no longer even play at the stadium where the launch is being held.
Dwindling crowds have seen the Kings move to the more homely Madibaz Stadium at Nelson Mandela University campus on the outskirts of town.
It will be a let-down for many if the owners tell supporters about a convoluted “five-year plan” for success.
Fans have been waiting for too long for success in this region to be regaled about longterm plans to lift the Kings off their knees.
The general expectation is that the cash-flush consortium must embark on a spending spree to acquire the type of players needed to make the side competitive.
These must not be players who are seeking a retirement package.
New signings must be of a calibre where fans are excited enough to buy season tickets.
Another low-key PRO14 season will further alienate disillusioned fans who do not bother to watch matches any more.
The new regime will not need telling that success breeds success and an immediate return to the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will also lift the profile of the team.
A star-studded Kings outfit challenging for a PRO14 playoff berth could attract 20,000 fans and lift the mood of pessimism surrounding rugby.
Will the new money bring shine back to the Kings crown?
Time will tell.