Mitchell and Lions in new stand-off
The John Mitchell versus GLRU saga has taken another intriguing twist, with Mitchell claiming he wants to continue coaching in Johannesburg.
The John Mitchell versus Golden Lions Rugby Union saga has taken another intriguing twist, with Mitchell claiming he wants to continue coaching in Johannesburg.
In what appears to be either a dangerous cat and mouse game or a major breakdown in communications, the GLRU and Mitchell's management company, The Fordham Company, gave contradictory statements about the 'outcome' of their long-standing public spat.
Mitchell, who has been under suspension by the GLRU since June, said in a statement - issued by The Fordham Company - that he wants to continue as head coach of the Lions.
This came just days after Mitchell was 'appointed' to a rugby strategy management board of the Sale Sharks Premiership club in England.
According the Fordham statement Mitchell was found 'not guilty of various charges' levelled against by the GLRU, and that a further six charges have been withdrawn.
The statement also said that Mitchell is committed to continuing in the role of head coach at the Lions, buoyed by news that he has "already been found not guilty of various charges of misconduct" levelled against him by the GLRU.
However, GLRU Chief Executive Ruben Moggee said these are just assumptions made by the Fordham Company.
"I have no idea how they can make a [media] release if they have not even seen the proposal of the [arbitration hearing] chairman [Peter Bam]," Moggee told this website in an exclusive interview.
"It is their prerogative [to make such assumptions]," Moggee added.
The GLRU boss confirmed that they have received the arbitration hearing chairman's report.
"We can't comment on that at this stage, we are busy looking at it," Moggee said, adding: "We will look to issue a media release later in the week.
"They may have made an assumption, because we have it and haven't forwarded it to them yet, so they may assume he is innocent.
"They can make assumptions if they want."
John Fordham, the Chief Executive of The Fordham Company, further discombobulated the matter by claiming not to know about Mitchell's appointment to the Sale Sharks board in England - where the former All Black mentor had been acting in an advisory capacity.
"I am not aware of that," Fordham told this website in a telephonic interview from Sydney, when asked about the Sale issue.
"What we say in the media release stands, as far as I am concerned, and that is the instruction I have got from John," he said about the claim that Mitchell did not accept a 'coaching' position at the Sharks.
"I am not aware of any of that [the Sale Sharks statement]," the Fordham boss said, adding: "I have not looked at their website and I have no reason to look at their website.
"All I can say is that he was approached by Sale Sharks and our media release makes it very clear he is still employed by the Golden Lions. He [Mitchell] has been under suspension, but he is still employed.
"Since this action [by the GLRU] started, he is still being paid according to his contract."
Asked what Mitchell was doing in the UK, Fordham said: "I am not aware of that, he could have been over there looking at games or something.
"I think that is irrelevant, because he is employed by the Golden Lions.
"The media release we sent out makes it very clear that he has every intention of continuing there [at the GLRU in Johannesburg."
The Fordham Company media release in full:
JOHN MITCHELL FOUND NOT GUILTY OF VARIOUS CHARGES; FURTHER
SIX CHARGES WITHDRAWN; NOW ANXIOUS FOR NEWS OF REMAINING FINDINGS
Suspended Golden Lions Rugby Union head coach John Mitchell is committed to continuing in the role, buoyed by news that he has already been found not guilty of various charges of misconduct levelled against him by the GLRU, with a further six charges having been withdrawn by the Johannesburg-based club.
The lengthy enquiry into the charges laid against Mitchell by the GLRU was chaired by an independent legal expert, Mr Peter Bam.
"Even though John has been cleared of these particular allegations, the GLRU, through its lawyers, is not prepared to release details to John or his lawyers," says Mitchell's management, The Fordham Company, today.
"That's pretty amazing considering the damage that this action taken by the GLRU has done to John's reputation and brand. Furthermore, the GLRU's lawyers have advised John’s lawyers that they are not prepared to release the findings and recommendations pertaining to the remaining nine charges brought against John unless John agrees to sign a confidentiality undertaking. One would have to question why this information is being withheld".
Mitchell's lawyers Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs is continuing to press for full disclosure from the GLRU law firm Erasmus Inc and have threatened an urgent application to Labour Court to secure the findings and recommendations.
In making it clear that he wants to be restored as Golden Lions head coach, Mitchell confirmed today that he has no intention of seeking a coaching position with the UK club Sale Sharks, even though he had been approached by the club regarding the position.
"I want my head coach position back at the Lions," said Mitchell. "There is some unfinished business to do with the Lions. Furthermore, I am determined that my future will be in South Africa".
The statement by Brian Kennedy, owner of Sale Sharks, issued last week Wednesday (October 31):
"We are delighted to announce that Bryan Redpath will be taking on the role of Head Coach at Sale Sharks, as from today. His four year contract that commenced this year will stay in force.
"Sale Sharks have formed a rugby strategy management board, which will meet regularly to devise and review the long term rugby strategy. This board will be chaired by Brian Kennedy and consist of the following members: Ian Blackhurst, Steve Diamond, John Mitchell and Bryan Redpath.
"The priority of all the management within Sale Sharks is to get back to winning ways and secure our position in the Premiership. We believe we have the playing and coaching talent and structure to achieve this.
"Beyond this we must plan medium and long term, to compete at the top of the game and this will be the remit of the strategy board."
By Jan de Koning