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New twist in Mitchell v Lions saga

Thu, 01 Nov 2012 14:17
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It is difficult when you sit in a process like this and you are talking to lawyers
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The Golden Lions Rugby Union are locked in renewed discussion with lawyers, after the unpleasant John Mitchell saga took an intriguing new twist this week.

The GLRU had hoped to wrap up the protracted dispute involving former the All Black coach, Mitchell, before the end of the month.

However, the Lions were caught unawares by the news that Mitchell had been appointed on the 'strategy management board' of English Premiership club Sale Sharks.

Brian Kennedy, the owner of Sale Sharks, on Wednesday issued a formal statement revealing Mitchell's appointment - despite the fact that the Kiwi is still claiming a salary from the GLRU and is on their books as 'head coach'.

The GLRU are not allowed to stop Mitchell's monthly payments or start advertising the position of head coach until such time as the arbitration hearing involving the suspended New Zealander is completed.

Three Kiwis - Mitchell, Carlos Spencer (backs/attack coach) and Wayne Taylor (conditioning coach), who were roped in by the GLRU midway through 2010 - were all shown the door earlier this year.

Mitchell has been involved in a protracted arbitration dispute with the GLRU since the fall-out, after complaints from senior players and the GLRU management.

Spencer and Taylor have both walked away.

The Mitchell saga is the one that has attracted the most unsavoury headlines against the GLRU, who are determined to put it behind them and move on.

Former Springbok lock Johan Ackermann has been doing well in a caretaker role in place of Mitchell and  looks set to replace the New Zealander once the dust has settled.

While GLRU Chief Executive Ruben Moggee expects the unsavoury saga to come to and end early next week, Mitchell's appointment to the Sale Sharks board did cause a few complications in the ongoing arbitration case.

"There seemed to be various versions of whether he was appointed, was just a consulted or was there in his personal capacity," Moggee told this website.

"We are not to sure," he said, adding: "We are obviously discussing it with his lawyers - there isn't much else we can comment on, until the disciplinary process is finalised."

Moggee added that they had hoped for the entire sage to be completed by Friday, but it is likely to drag on for a few more days - till early next week.

Only then can the Lions start advertising the position, which is expected to go to Ackermann.

"Hopefully early next week it should be resolved from our side and then we can move on," Moggee told this website.

It is no secret that Mitchell has been in England for weeks, acting in an advisory capacity at Sale.

Yet, the GLRU were powerless to move on.

"That is true," Moggee said of Mitchell's involvement at the Premiership club, adding: "But we have to go through the right channels and follow the right steps.

"It is difficult when you sit in a process like this and you are talking to lawyers, but that is unfortunately how these things go."

By Jan de Koning

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