For the first time in the professional era‚ members of SA Rugby’s General Council made potentially far-reaching decisions that put rugby‚ rather than petty provincial politics‚ first on Friday.

Several smaller unions on the council‚ which is made up of representatives of the 14 provincial unions‚ effectively ceded power [money] of the game to larger unions and a leaner decision-making structure.

The most significant outcomes of tough negotiations at a Newlands hotel were agreement on the implementation of new committees for franchise [Super Rugby] and non-franchise rugby and an increase in private equity stakes in unions from 24.9% to 74%.

In future all key decisions such as the appointment of the Springbok coach‚ the awarding of Super Rugby franchises‚ the appointment of the chief executive and other key ‘professional’ resolutions will be taken by the smaller‚ streamlined Executive Council.

The Exco will now have six elected members and five independents and will only report to the General Council a few times a year.

The General Council loses power over the professional side of the sport.

It now operates as shareholders would to a publicly listed company.

Until now‚ every decision the Exco made had to pass through the General Council for ratification‚ which often led to small-minded outcomes based on provincial needs rather than national interests.

“In the end our members made a decision in the best interests of South African rugby and if you look at some of the decisions that were taken‚ turkeys did vote for Christmas‚” SA Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux said.

“It is a watershed day in South African Rugby.

“We needed 75 per cent of the vote to change the constitution and the fact that we are able to make the changes shows that it was pretty unanimous [although not completely].

“Some unions had to make hard decisions that could be viewed by their own constituents as not in the best interests of the union‚ even though it might be in the best interest of South African rugby.

“I have respect for people who made that choice today. If we now fail with these committees then we might as well not have changed anything.

“I believe that we will now see the right people talking about their own competitions and not worrying about what’s happening elsewhere.

“We are not trying lose provincialism in rugby [at a playing level] but we are trying to lose it in terms of decision-making.

"We will now be at a point where we have an agenda‚ discuss what’s on the table and make a focused decision in the best interests of our business‚ which is rugby.

“People are afraid of change and it’s difficult but sometimes things happen on the field and in other places that force you into change.

"Maybe this is a silver lining.”

Key decisions made were:

1. Permitting 74% shareholdings in commercial arms of rugby unions by private equity partners.

2. Introducing new committees for franchise (Super Rugby) and non-franchise rugby to focus and streamline decision making

3. Increasing the make-up of the independent and player representation on the Executive Council to five independents with six elected members.

4. Moving responsibility for the appointment of the Springbok coach and CEO from the General Council to the Executive Council.

5. Removing the selection committee while retaining a selection convenor to work with national team coaches.

6. Aligning with the country’s geopolitical boundaries by moving to nine members of SA Rugby‚ while retaining 14 playing unions.

7. Reducing the presidential roles from three to two by removing the vice presidency from 2018.

Allowing an increase in the private equity stake in unions could help alleviate financial stress on unions and by extension on SA Rugby‚ who paid over R165m in the last financial year to unions.

A committee has been established to define how SA Rugby’s broadcasting money‚ which is the largest portion of its income‚ will flow to the ‘non-franchise’ unions.

“The money will still be split between the 14 unions but I suspect the split will be significantly different to what it is now‚” Roux said. - TMG Digital

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