The Way Forward – Privatizing South African Rugby

South African Rugby Administration Can Learn From American Sport Administration

Rugby and American sports go together like oil and water amongst most supporters, however, if one takes a closer look at the administrations of American sports teams, not only can South African rugby learn a lot but world rugby as a whole, can take some advice from the West.

A Brief Overview Of American Sport Administration

privitizing rugbyAll franchises playing within major American sports leagues such as the NFL (American Football), and MLB (baseball) are privatised and owned by individual owners. Perhaps the most famous example of the above comes in the form of co Microsoft founder & former CEO Steve Ballmer — who bought the Los Angeles Clippers, basketball team for a whopping $2 billion Dollars, shortly after his retirement.

All big American franchises have their respective owners, with a General Manager (CEO) reporting to the owner, overseeing the administration and day to day running of the franchise.

Rugby Slowly Moving Towards Privatisation

The French were the 1st major rugby nation who partially started to embrace the concept of private ownership of franchises, while their current setup might not be the best for their national team — French clubs are blossoming. The most famous example coming in the form of Top 14 club Toulon owned by the big-spending French businessman Mourad Boudjellal.


More private franchise ownership examples include high-spending Japanese clubs, owned by brands such as Toyota and Isuzu,  who are currently poaching South African rugby players left right & centre.

SARU And South African Rugby Operating At A Loss

When considering the above there is definitely a lesson to be learned for cash-strapped South African franchises, all of whom currently report to their individual rugby unions. These 14 provincial unions (of which the 6-best compete in Super Rugby) have a collective salary bill of roughly R60 million ZAR, broadcasting rights brings in approximately R30 Million, with sponsorship deals (which is becoming harder to acquire) bringing in roughly R15 Million, which leaves a huge deficit of R15 Million, with the losses narrowly made up by the national side.

Failing South African Rugby System

The failing South African rugby system is emphasised by the above figures, everyone knows the current South African rugby setup is not working, a system which recently came under immense criticism by former players, coaches and major media outlets.

Privatizing South African Rugby — Making It A Business

There is a lesson to be learned here quoting Albert Einstein who said, “You can’t save a system, using the thinking that created it”. Thus a different and smarter approach is needed, a move away from conservatism which prevents private ownership, within SA Rugby.

If South African clubs and franchises become privately owned — SARU would no longer be in control of franchises, meaning privatisation would effectively dissolve SARU and government intervention at the premium end of franchise rugby.

The move to private ownership would result in Super Rugby franchises being run like a business making, smart investment and managerial decisions at the top level!

Privatization is the only way in which a failing system, with franchises currently operating at a loss, can be turned around — into a viable profit making brand and business!

It would open the door for much needed foreign investment, more money would mean clubs can retain their players and perhaps more importantly, it would shift decision-making away from one (SARU) to many (board of investors).

Privatisation would benefit all franchises, teams like the Cheetahs who does a fine job at developing players but have little to no financial resources to retain their players once their talent gets identified would be able to financially compete with the bigger franchises, and can become genuine conference contenders if not Super Rugby contenders.

privatizing South African rugbyPublic Ownership Of Franchises.

If no wealthy private investors are interested in purchasing a club, there is always the option to make the franchise a public entity – a good example of this comes in the form of the Green Bay Packers, an NFL (American Football) team. Green Bay has a mere population of 100’000 residents yet they consistently remain title contenders and can compete with the very best, teams like the New England Patriots who has a population of 14-Million.

While the New England Patriots are privately owned the Green Bay Packers, with their 100’000 residents are a public entity open for the public to buy shares in the team. Such a system would be perfect for a smaller South African rugby franchise like the Cheetahs or even The Kings.

SARU’S Current Policy On Privatisation

SARU’s current policy does allow private investment but it is capped at 49%, thus allowing SARU complete control over decision making, needless to say, this deters serious investors and does nothing to help the failing system, which is South African rugby.

Distribution Of Talent Forming A Rugby Player Draft System

Another lesson which South African rugby can learn from American sports is their draft system. After University, Varsity Cup or high school (for exceptionally talented athlete’s) players enter the yearly draft.

The team who finished last in the previous year’s tournament has the first pick, meaning first rights to select a player, then the second team makes their pick and so on. This allows for even distribution of talent and increases competitiveness. Because talent is now evenly spread out – a winning team now starts to rely on smart coaching and the formulation of a winning game plan. The added pressure and workload that would get put on coaches is much needed for South African rugby to increase sorely lacking coaching skills.


Considering all of the above, not only will it make South African rugby, and the franchises operating within in it a profitable brand, it will also help to stop the mass exodus of current South African players, with clubs now able to offer better and more lucrative packages.

We believe the “draft system would work wonders in distributing talent and improve overall competitiveness which can only benefit South African rugby.

What do you think of the above, we would especially like to know what you think of the proposed draft system, and if you agree that privatization is the way forward for SA Rugby.

As always drop us a comment below!

Facebook Comments