Southern Kings halt all rugby for rest of 2020 due to financial concerns

Neither South African franchise will take part in PRO14 next season due to travel restrictions caused by coronavirus pandemic

The Southern Kings in action against Edinburgh soon after they joined the PRO14 back in 2017. Image: ©Christiaan Kotze/Fotosport
The Southern Kings in action against Edinburgh soon after they joined the PRO14 back in 2017. Image: ©Christiaan Kotze/Fotosport

SOUTHERN KINGS have suspended all rugby activity for the remainder of 2020 due to financial issues. The South African PRO14 franchise have been left facing a bleak future after a failed takeover bid led to their national governing body assuming control of the organisation in June, and it has now been determined that it is time to “stop throwing good money after bad” at the problem.

Meanwhile, PRO14 Rugby, the league’s organisers, have confirmed that due to on-going travel restrictions enforced by the South African government against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is not foreseen that any cross-border games involving the two South African teams – the Kings and the Toyota Cheetahs – will take place this calendar year, meaning that the competition looks certain to revert back to being the PRO12 for at least the duration of the 2020-21 campaign.

“Following several weeks of interrogation of the Kings’ financial state of affairs we were left with a straightforward choice,”  said Kings board chairman Andre Rademan in a media statement on Tuesday.

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“We could opt to field the Kings in the domestic competitions mooted by SA Rugby for the sport’s post-lockdown resumption if we so wished.

“If we did so, it would require additional loans to the Kings or extra investment from the shareholders to the tune of R6.5 million (£295k), which would add to the organisation’s existing substantial debt.

“However, as there was no contractual requirement for the Kings to resume short-term participation in the PRO14 competition, because of air travel restrictions, and as the Kings had no other commercial commitments to honour, the most prudent decision was to withdraw.”

A consortium reached a deal to acquire 76% of the Kings in January 2019, which was billed as new dawn for the Port Elizabeth-based team, but failed to come up with the necessary funds to complete the transaction.

“This is obviously very disappointing news for the players and management who, like all rugby professionals, were desperate to resume playing,” continued Rademan. “But the board believed that further investment in 2020 with zero commercial return would be reckless in the extreme.

“As a board we had been considering further short-term contracts to see the squad through to the end of the year. But it became apparent that we would, for want a better phrase, be throwing good money after bad in the current global environment.

“We now have time to consider what is the best way forward for rugby in the Eastern Province in this fluid and financially challenging environment.”

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About David Barnes 3995 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. I hope the Cheetahs can make it into the new format. Just reading the the SA press that the SARU are holding a meeting soon whether to have 4 or 5 full franchises. I think the Cheetahs have been a decent addition to the league – certainly more so than the Italians who, if they lose a team for a while, would mean we could have a balanced pro 16.

    If that format’s a success, we could maybe move up to pro 18 once finances stabilise with the return of an Italian club and London Scottish (once they get their own place?).

  2. Sounds like it was only a matter of time for this news. My fear is that several other teams will be in a similar position.

  3. While Kings have been essentially a shoestring operation in recent times, this serious reverse also highlights the fragility and tenuous basis of international-level professional club rugby, and indeed sends out a clear message about the risks inherent in organised cross-border (cross-continent!) league competitions.

    The future of the Pro14 concept as it is presently constituted and organised must realistically remain in the “far from assured” category.

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