Brian van Zyl’s letter (Mercury, June 17) raises several important issues relating to The Sharks, which need to be addressed.
Firstly, our financial position is stable. Player salaries have risen dramatically in recent years amid the talent drain to Europe and Japan. However, at The Sharks, we have managed our costs effectively and our shareholders have been a tower of strength, agreeing to capitalise the company appropriately. Brian’s suggestion that these financial challenges suddenly began when he left the organisation in 2013 is contradicted by the audited financial statements. The previous losses and the lack of governance are well documented. This is of little consequence now. What does matter is that Sharks supporters can rest assured the organisation has been managed effectively and responsibly over the past three years, we are approaching breakeven in 2016 and our future is bright.
Secondly, it bears repeating that The Sharks will only move to play at the Moses Mabhida stadium if the decision makes commercial sense. We have restored a constructive dialogue with the City, removing the personal enmity that was once a barrier to any interaction, and discussions continue. The final decision will be made by the Sharks Board, following detailed consultation with all stakeholders, including sponsors, suite and season ticket holders, clubs and the rugby fraternity at large.
Thirdly, reversing the national trend, rugby continues to grow in
KwaZulu Natal with improved relationships and increased participation levels at primary schools and high schools. We have embraced the challenge of transformation by taking the game to places such as Umlazi, KwaMashu and Claremont and, where not long ago we were regarded as the grumpy guys moaning on the touchline, we have now put ourselves in the front row of initiatives to grow our game.
These are the facts, and everybody associated with The Sharks can be proud of the progress made during the past three years.
Lastly on a personal note, I take no pleasure from this public spat with my predecessor as CEO. I have tried to contact Brian van Zyl directly to resolve any issues, but he has declined to return my
calls. Ever since I arrived in Durban as an excited 18-year-old, I have only ever strived for what is best for The Sharks. As a player, as captain and most recently as CEO, I have always given my best and been grateful for the opportunities, and I am proud of what has been achieved. In any event, I have always respected the institution. Only Brian will know whether his letter to the Mercury was motivated by similarly pure concerns and considerations, as he claims, or whether, in fact, it represents the opening salvo in a campaign to challenge current office-bearers at the KZNRU… and he doesn’t care who is caught in the crossfire.
My instinctive reaction was that I would not respond to his sadly personal attack. I learned long ago that criticism is part of the game. You take it on the chin. However, an increasing number of friends and colleagues have urged me to defend myself and my reputation.
In rugby, on the field, if somebody gets in a cheap shot, you take their number and make sure you put in a big hit before the 80 minutes have passed. That’s the game. Maybe the same principle applies in the boardroom but, I can assure you, it’s nothing like as much fun.