Southern Kings

McKeever plans a magic comeback

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Controversial Spears Managing Director Tony McKeever is hoping to make a magical reappearance as a mainstream role player on the South African rugby landscape, when he stands in the race for the presidency of the Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU), at the union’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday.

This is one of several developments in the tumultuous South Eastern Cape region, in which ongoing court cases, as well as claims and counter claims remain the order of the day.


McKeever, who is ad odds with the other members of the Spears board over the recent settlement reached between the Spears and SA Rugby (the commercial arm of the South African Rugby Union – SARU), also confirmed that he has not ended his court crusade against SA Rugby.


Championing himself as the man for the people (the EPRU clubs), McKeever denied that he is on a lone crusade for the benefit of Tony McKeever.


He said his motivation is to see that “justice is done” for the Spears.


However, it became very clear in the last few days that he is at odds with the other directors on the Spears board – there are six remaining directors – and that he is the only member of the board who does not agree with the settlement.


In short the settlement involves the fees of the Spears’ legal council (an amount of R820,000), which will be paid, while the Spears in turn disbanded their court action against SA Rugby and will not take part in the Super 14 next year.


But even these fees are now at the centre of another court case, which started in the Port Elizabeth high court on Tuesday.


Charl Crous, a disgruntled former Spears “legal advisor”, has called for the urgent liquidation of the dying franchise to try and secure eight months of outstanding salaries owed to him and fellow employees.


Crous submitted an urgent application to the Port Elizabeth High Court on Tuesday, calling for the liquidation of the franchise. And in what is likely to be another protracted legal battle, the court froze the R820,000 paid by SA Rugby to the Spears for their legal team’s cost.


That means the Spears, for the time being, also can’t pay their legal team. At least not until this case comes to a conclusion.


In his affidavit, Crous said he was absolutely infuriated when Spears chairman Aldy Meyer advised him that the recent settlement with SA Rugby did not make any provision for payment of outstanding salaries to either employees or players.


And this settlement is also the big bone of contention between McKeever and the other directors on the Spears board.


Meyer, the Spears’ chairman, insists that the settlement is the way forward for the franchise. He was adamant that any action by McKeever is in his (McKeever’s) personal capacity and not on behalf of the Spears or the board.


“If McKeever brings an application he will have to do it in his personal capacity,” Meyer said.


“I’m the only person who has a mandate to act on behalf of the Spears – the written agreement with the directors of the Spears makes that clear. Nobody else can challenge that settlement with SARU/SA Rugby.”


Meyer described the settlement as a “consensual decision” by the Spears board.


The Spears chairman also claimed that McKeever is no longer part of the Spears, since his contract as Spears MD expired on November 15 and will not be renewed.


“The directors made it clear that his contract expired and I informed him of this in writing – that his contract will not be extended beyond November 15, because we don’t have the money,” Meyer said.


He added that while McKeever is still a director of the board, this could change at the next meeting of shareholders.


McKeever, who claims that his contract only expires at the end of November, insists that his actions are in the best interest of the Spears and accused Meyer of “failing in his duties” as a director, as well as his duties to uphold and protect the rights and assets of the Spears.


McKeever, who is facing a SARU disciplinary hearing because of his often outspoken views and public attacks on SARU and SA Rugby officials, claimed the settlement was brokered outside the mandate of the attorneys.


“They [the attorneys] never had a mandate to do that,” he said. “The settlement, if you can call it that, is just for the lawyers’ fees,” he continued.


Using words such as fraud, irregular and peculiar he continued his tirade against what he called “systematic asset stripping” of the Spears.


“You have to question this settlement, it is very grotesque,” he said.


When asked if he feels fraud had indeed been committed and by whom, McKeever was a little less forthcoming.


“I don’t know, it needs to be looked at,” he said.


When pressed on the issue and asked why he used the term fraud he claimed that no proper resolution was taken by the board – even though he was party to the teleconference call in which the board members discussed the settlement.


“Let me put it this way, it is a highly irregular action and it was totally misrepresented to all of the board members this past Tuesday,” McKeever said.


“There was no resolution. The shareholders agreement say a resolution is only a resolution if it is signed by all directors and no documents were signed. It was just a discussion over the phone.”


McKeever accused SA Rugby of “robbing the Spears blind” with the settlement and vowed to continue fighting for what he believes to be a just cause.


He denied that he is acting out of self-interest, but revealed that he has started legal proceedings to secure outstanding salaries owed to him by the Spears.


“I have a Grahamstown High court order to that effect,” he said about the outstanding salaries, dating back to March this year.


Asked what will happen now that his Spears contract will not be renewed and it is clear that he will also be removed from the Spears board as a director, McKeever described the EPRU AGM on Saturday (November 25) as the defining moment for him.


“This coming weekend, at the AGM of the EPRU, the 102 clubs [of the ERPRU] must decide,” McKeever said about his future.


“Saturday will be the defining moment and it is not only about the presidency. They [the clubs] will define the direction of the union for the future,” he added.


* Meanwhile Jannie Lubbe, who had been tasked to hold the disciplinary hearing for McKeever, confirmed that the hearing would take place probably in the last week of November.


“I am in the process of speaking to the two sets of lawyers – both for McKeever and SARU – to confirm the date,” he told rugby365.


“McKeever is to be charged with a Code of conduct breach for his numerous public attacks on SARU officials.


If found guilty he could be banned from rugby for life.


By Jan de Koning, 365 Digital

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