Roc Nation boss: SA rugby franchises can’t be treated like a ‘stepchild’!
Roc Nation Sports President Michael Yormark believes the dynamic between rugby franchises and SA Rugby is currently not healthy.
Yormark was in conversation with event MC and sports broadcaster Motshidisi Mohono, alongside Roc Nation’s Director of Operations in Africa, Isaac Lugudde-Katwe, at the 2021 Hollard Sport Industry Awards on 25 November.
The Roc Nation boss didn’t hold back in his assessment of the dynamic that exists between South Africa’s rugby franchises and the national body, SA Rugby.
“Rugby clubs in South Africa are secondary to the national team, and that can’t happen,” he said. “That dynamic needs to change, because as a secondary priority to your national team, they’ll never survive. In rugby and football, it’s the clubs who are paying the players, enriching the local community, and creating jobs on a consistent basis in each of their local markets.
“The clubs are super, super important – they can’t be treated like the stepchild, and they can’t be just a feeder system to the national teams. It’s not right, it has to change, and we’re going to do everything we can to impact that change.”
Strong words from Yormark, who over the past two years has obviously got acquainted with how sport is run in South Africa, as well as how it is sold and commercialised.
It’s fair to say that he remains unimpressed, although he clearly sees potential.
“It all starts with further commercialising sport in South Africa, driving revenues, creating more fan engagement, filling your stadiums, and really making the sports industry successful, from every aspect,” he said. “When I say, ‘get to the next level’, it means making these clubs sustainable on their own, making sure that clubs don’t play a secondary role to governing bodies.”
He also had some harsh words for those corporates or brands who, in his opinion, have previously leveraged the influence of South Africa’s top sports stars for fees well below market value, and he rejected the notion that his local clients were now unaffordable for South African sponsors/partners.
“Many organisations in South Africa have taken advantage of the Siya Kolisis, the Cheslin Kolbes, the Bongis, the Tendais, the Lungi Ngidis, by not paying them fair market value for their services,” said Yormark.
“We can no longer accept brands saying, ‘hey, here’s what I’m willing to offer you, you need to accept that.’ Those days are over. We have to demand that brands see the value in these ambassadors, these influencers, these brand partners, and pay them fair market value, whether it’s in rands, dollars, euros or pounds. We know that South Africa-based companies can afford it, and we just have to protect and defend our athletes, and make sure that they’re treated fairly.”
What’s clear is that Yormark believes the power dynamic in South African sport is skewed in favour of the governing bodies, and it’s something he’d like to see changed.
Obviously, he and Roc Nation have a vested interest, as they represent athletes in the South African market, but what isn’t in doubt is that Yormark believes that greater power in the hands of athletes will translate into a win for all parties in the South African sports value chain.
“When you think about professional athletes in South Africa today, and you think about the position they don’t have, it’s a concern,” he said.
“In order for the industry to continue to grow and monetise itself, we need to create star power, and what the industry in South Africa needs to understand, whether it’s the governing bodies or the clubs, is that when stars emerge as stars, as athletes build their brands and their visibility, it’s great for the clubs, it’s great for the governing bodies, and it shines a light, not only on them, but the entire sports industry.”
So what’s the bottom line for the Roc Nation boss?
Yormark feels the South African sports industry is ripe for a shake-up, and he wants Roc Nation Sports to be at the forefront of that shake-up.
“There has to be change, and part of change is being disruptive and speaking out on things that aren’t right.”