A recent visit to the Kings by Stade Francais owner Hans-Peter Wild has once again raised the question of whether the Eastern Province Rugby Union might consider a private investment.
EPRU president Andre Rademan was spotted spending time with Wild as they visited the Nelson Mandela Bay University’s sports centre last week, before watching this past weekend’s Pro14 clash between the Kings and Cheetahs.
Although it’s understood that Wild was visiting Port Elizabeth as part of a vacation, it has sparked talks over whether a cash-flush French club owner may consider buying a stake in the Kings franchise.
Last year, it was reported that American businessman Douglas Schoninger had attended a classified meeting with SA Rugby bosses in Cape Town over the possible buyout of a majority stake in EP Rugby. However, that deal ultimately failed to materialise.
This all follows the much-publicised financial troubles that have plagued the Kings, with the Eastern Province Rugby Union’s affairs having been placed under the administrative control of SA Rugby – by invitation – in April of 2016 in order to help regularise the cash-strapped union’s affairs.
It appeared as if positive progress had been made when it was announced last February that the administration of the EPRU was set to be returned to “local hands”, with the adoption of a new constitution triggering elections for a new executive that was appointed in April.
Yet, due to SA Rugby’s concerns over the financial stability of the EPRU, there have been ongoing delays to hand full administrative control back to the union.
Now with the Kings having lost their Super Rugby status, one has to wonder whether they might consider courting some further private ownership.
French clubs, in particular, have embraced privatisation, with Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal playing a major role in providing a cash injection that has turned the side into a European powerhouse.
Time will now tell whether the Kings could be in line for some foreign investment of their own.