Players happy as Kings fall
REACTION: The players welcomed the 'liquidation' of EP Rugby (Pty) Ltd, the professional arm of the Eastern Province Rugby Union.
The EPRU earlier announced the withdrawal of their business rescue plan; while EP Rugby (Pty) Ltd indicated that it will no longer oppose the liquidation application brought against it by the players.
A cash-strapped EP Rugby was placed under provisional liquidation in March this year, after failing to resolve its ongoing financial woes - which has seen the union go into the red by as much as ZAR100-million.
The joint liquidation proceedings on behalf of 36 players were first heard in the PE High Court, with EP Rugby (Pty) Ltd being given until May 10 to settle the outstanding debts or face the prospect of the order becoming final.
Initially EP Rugby suggested they had a backer who was willing to invest ZAR100-million over the next five years (at ZAE20-million per year), but it was subsequently revealed that the Kings' benefactor - Christopher Wishlade of Integrated Sport - himself was declared bankrupt last year and on at least one previous occasion.
There were also several questions raised about the credibility and existence of the company, Integrated Sport.
Wishlade then bailed out of the rescue plan and last week the rescue plan was dumped.
When the matter returned to the PE High Court on Thursday, the provisional liquidation order was made final - with the next step now turning to the recovery of owed debts.
Although yet to be confirmed by SA Rugby, the EP Kings will almost certainly now be dumped from the Currie Cup Premier Division this season.
"We welcome the court's ruling to finalise the liquidation order," Eugene Henning MD of MyPlayers - who represented half of the players - told rugby365.
"It has been a drawn out process and a very uncomfortable experience for the players concerned."
Henning could not say what the reasons were for the withdrawal of the opposition of the liquidation by EP Rugby.
"The matter is in now in the hands of the appointed liquidator and we will co-operate and allow him to perform the necessary work over the next few weeks.
"We hope that this new development can contribute to finding a sustainable solution going forward for players and rugby in the region," Henning concluded.
Craig Jessop, who represented the other half of the group of players, also expressed his delight of having won another round in the long-standing fight with EP Rugby and EPRU.
He also confirmed that their case is now "in the hands of the liquidator".
"The players are satisfied that this part of process has been finalised," Jessop told rugby365.
"The pursuit for the recovery of money due to them will now take place in terms of the liquidation process.
"Whilst we hope that a sensible solution will be found to the present impasse, we will be in contact with the liquidator in order to pursue relief for the players."
By Jan de Koning