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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.”

10 Responses to Questions around John Mitchell’s move away from the Lions Den

  • 1

    While the Lions may claim to not have known about the actual signing of Mitchell at Sale Sharks surely they have been aware of the talks that have been going on between him and Sale as its been an ‘open secret’ that even us lay people knew about…

  • 2

    This is definetely one for our very own legal eagle GBS to help with, so many questions eg. what if Mitchell just walks away from the Lions now how can they stop it, as far as I know he has not been accused of committing any crimes (as it has only been an internal Lions hearing as far as we know) so how would the Lions get him back from the UK – one assumes you need to be accused of a crime for an extradition request to be put in between countries???

  • 3

    2 @ Bullscot:
    I know too little of the actual Legal Wrangles in the Arbitration hearing itself to speculate… or for that matter about the current position of Mitchell at the Sale Sharks.

    I know he’s supposedly appointed to a Board at the Sale Sharks, but whether that is on an advisory capacity, earning ANY moolah, is the open question.

    Guess it’s clear to all and sundry that Mitchell and the GLRU will sever ties, it’s now just about the Quantum of renumeration and the portion of his remaining contract.

    I heard a few rumours as to what some of the actual charges against Mitchell entailed, from the GLRU and Player grievences… but I won’t gossip here or slander anybody, so I’m keeping it under wraps.

  • 4

    @ grootblousmile:
    I heard those too. Lets wait and see.

  • 5

    3 @ grootblousmile:
    Yes don’t the fine print detail of his ‘deal’ at the Sharks but come on GBS you seriously can’t be thinking its charity work on his part? You probably right not to perpetuate any rumours you got via the grape vine guess we just need to sit tight and wait and see eventually what comes out in the end although it has seemed to drag on for ages now. Or we may never no, maybe this will be another one of those endings where both parties just ‘agree to part ways’

  • 6

    Fukken hell why is everyone being so PC about this?
    The Lions want him out.
    The Poms want him back.
    Just let him go, so that the sensitive little Lions players can stop going to visit their therapists to recover from the trauma of being shit and JM telling them so.

    Pay him out, everyone happy, except thevtherapists who will lose some money.

  • 7

    The Lions are useless. Moggee isn’t even the CEO. He’s the acting CEO.

    The position was never filled when Manie Reyneke left in just over a year ago!

    Applications for the position closed in February according to the advert wich is STILL ON THE GLRU WEBSITE.

    The GLRU are freeking useless when it comes to running a business on anything like professional grounds.

    I’ve said for a long time that, particularly in top flight sport, on field performance is only the tip of the iceberg, and that if sustained poor performances are the order of the day, then the 95% of the organisation that is not on public display every week is, in all likelihood probably in a poor state as well.

    Take the Lions match itiniary for 2013 as an example.

    Please anyone, correct me if I’m wrong, but to date there has been no official announcements from the GLRU regarding who the team is going to play next year.

    Sure there have been murmurings about games in Europe, the Americas, the South Sea Islands. Teams like Russia, Grenoble and others have all been mentioned by various people. BUT TO DATE NO OFFICIAL COMMUNICATION HAS BEEN RECEIVED that I’m aware of.

    Come on Kevin de Klerk and company. Don’t you think it’s about time that YOU showed some loyalty to those fans that for the last 10 years have dragged themselves to watch your games, only to walk away dissapointed, before you end up with crowds that wouldn’t even fill a President League club’s meagre stands?

    I suppose though that I’m pleading to people that either don’t give a damn, or can’t change their attitudes.

    The saying goes that “A leopard can’t change it’s spots”, and for as long as I’ve been involved with Lions / GLRU Rugby, the amount and quality of cummunications from the GLRU / Lions to both the media and their supporters has been abysmal at best.

    Why should it change now?

    As for John Mitchell. Whatever he did was obviously deemed serious enough for a player revolt. The Lions must just pay him out and move on.

    They now have 9 months in which to build a decent coaching team and get the youngsters motivated.

    Oh and Kevin, you have the only 2 IRB LEVEL 4 QUALIFIED COACHES IN SA CURRENTLY AT ONE OF YOUR CLUBS. (Just thought I’d mention it)

  • 8

    Just read on Sports24 John Mitchell wants to stay coaching Lions.

    So some twist in the saga here!

  • 9

    From Sports24


    Mitchell wants Lions job back
    2012-11-05 10:00

    John Mitchell (File)
    Related Links
    Chance for Boks to grow – CJ Murray likely to join Kings Bulls mourn player’s death Johannesburg – Suspended Golden Lions Rugby Union 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, 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.

    “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 coach, Mitchell confirmed 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”.

  • 10

    Good if Mitchell stays in South Africa. I personally think he is one of the best coaches and we should keep him here.

    Was busy making the Lions into a really top class team. I know many will not agree, but let us be realistic here, he was without many of his first choice players in Super Rugby and they never had the depth as other franchises to fill those positions with the same qualtity players.

    Good on Mitchell after this fiasco to still want to stay and coach Lions.


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