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Where have all the millions gone?

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Rob Wagner, the managing director of Western Province Rugby (Pty) Ltd, has come out strongly in defence of the company, as many questions remain unanswered over the “missing millions” of the WP Rugby Football Union (WPRFU).

WP Rugby, the (Pty) Ltd company, is the commercial arm of the WPRFU – yet they operate as “separate” entities. But the WPRFU owns a 75.1 percent share in WP Rugby, the company.

Together, known as the Western Province group, they declared a “combined” loss of R12.5-million this week – although this amount is also being disputed by Wagner.

The loss was declared at a Special General Committee meeting on Finance, a meeting that sparked a huge outcry in the province and suggestions that the union may be “forced” to sell is most valuable asset, the Newlands Stadium, to avoid bankruptcy.

Wagner, while not being prepared to discuss the financial position of the WPRFU, did say that the company was on a “sound financial footing” and that they (WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd) had made a profit of R7-million in the 2006 financial year.

The company, headed by Wagner as MD and answering to a board of directors, derives its income from professional rugby – the Stormers and Western Province Currie Cup team – through aspects such as broadcasting rights, gate takings, private suites, advertising, etc.

And according to Wagner the last financial year (2006) was a “great” financial year.

“Yes, the WP Group did declare a combined loss,” Wagner told this site on Thursday, adding that the loss was actually more in the region of R9-million and not the R12.5 million declared at the meeting.

“The Company [WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd] showed a profit of R7-million,” he added.

“We are very proud of our efforts as a company. I would like to place it on record that we [the company] are thriving on a financial perspective. We exceeded budget last year.

“We are looking forward to the future with confidence,” Wagner said about the company’s finances.

However, nobody was able to explain what happened to the approximately R16-million losses that were sustained by WPRFU – with the company’s R7-million profit reducing the overall loss to R9-million (the figure Wagner says is closer to the truth).

WPRFU chief executive Theuns Roodman did not return any calls on Thursday and Wagner was not prepared to discuss the union’s financial situation.

An audited review this week also revealed that the union’s current liabilities exceeded assets by R14,8-million and that cash reserves had plummeted from R23,1-million to R1,6-million.

Fingers are now being pointed at a previous regime, former WPRFU president Koos Basson.

Phil Kilroe, a former chairman of the WPRFU finance committee and member of the University of Cape Town, left no doubt as to whom he thought was at fault for the union’s dire financial straits.

In his address to the general council this week he pointed the finger at Basson.

“I would like to reserve specific criticism for our immediate past President, Koos Basson. I am sorry he is not here to hear this directly but my views are well known to him and have been articulated on many occasions – both in private discussions and in meetings,” Kilroe said in his address.

“In my view, the main reason the clubs, executive and management did not fulfil their responsibilities was because Mr Basson, a convincing narrator and a strong personality, always assured everybody who questioned him about our finances that we were one of the and I quote: ‘wealthiest unions in the world’ UNQUOTE and nothing needed changing. Mr Basson was trusted too much and has left us as a financially destitute union as his legacy.”

He went on to say that he resigned because his warnings of future financial troubles were ignored.

“Eventually in 2003 when I was attempting to control expenditure it became apparent I did not enj

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