Andre Watson sacked by SARU after CCMA investigation

(c) Getty Images
Andrew Watson (c) Getty Images

After months of delay, the South African Rugby Union have terminated the contract of their head of refereeing, Andre Watson. Their official statement:

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) today confirmed the arbitration award that was issued by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to the effect that the employment of André Watson, the General Manager Referees, with SARU has been terminated.

At the beginning of this year, a number of people within the Referees’ Department lodged a grievance against Watson and SARU commissioned an independent investigation into the grievance.

As a result of the findings, the CCMA was requested to consider certain allegations relating to Watson.  Contrary to some earlier reports, the allegations that were dealt with by the CCMA did not relate to racism, financial irregularities, misappropriation or match fixing but to the relationship between Watson and a number of people within the Referees’ Department and in turn the impact of such relationship on SARU.

The CCMA found that the allegations that had been levelled against Watson had been proved and as a consequence the CCMA found that the employment of Watson with SARU should be terminated.  The CCMA’s finding is final and binding on SARU and Watson.

Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU, said: “The CCMA process has been concluded and the CCMA Commissioner has issued a finding which is final and binding on SARU and Watson.

“This has been an unfortunate and difficult period for SARU – both for our match officials who were involved in the process – and, of course, for André Watson personally and professionally.

“We took the grievance seriously and have followed a thorough, independent process which culminated in SARU parting ways with André Watson. It was a difficult process but nonetheless a necessary one.

“We will move on from here and my wish is that André is remembered for his contribution to match officiating and not for the circumstances relating to his departure from SARU. He has been a major figure in world refereeing for a number of decades and has been part of developing South African referees into some of the best in the world.”
Roux said that it was important that South African match officials operated in a harmonious environment and he would address them collectively on the future of their Department.

The management and operations of the Referees’ Department would, in the meantime, be handled by SARU’s Rugby Department.

Roux said that he would make no further comment on the matter out of respect for André Watson’s contribution to rugby and to allow the fraternity to focus on the future after a difficult and trying period.

In reply, Mr Watson issued this statement:

It was with shock that I was informed of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) finding and subsequent termination of my employment with SARU. I am passionate about rugby and more specifically refereeing. It was an honour and privilege to be employed by the South African Rugby Union. I wish to offer my apologies to SARU, fellow employees and the South African rugby public for the negative publicity that emanated from this process.

Unfortunately my personal and professional integrity were damaged beyond repair following allegations devoid of any truth, widely publicised in the national and international press. The irony is that these very serious allegations did not even form part of the charges levied against me in the CCMA process. I have instructed my attorney of record to take legal action against those individuals responsible for this false rumours that tarnished by reputation and dignity and which, in my view, contributed to the outcome of CCMA process.

During the disciplinary hearing it was highlighted that the use of foul language and swearing became a habit in the rugby environment. I amongst others, made myself guilty of this. This made out the crux of the allegations levied against me. I acknowledge it to be unacceptable when representing SARU in a professional capacity. I tendered my apology and commitment to refrain from future transgressions in this regard.

Listening to evidence during the hearing I came to realize that my management style in certain instances might reasonably be interpreted as dictatorial, strict and abrasive. My attitude remains that in the high performance environment of international refereeing you have to be thick skinned and able to take criticism on the proverbial chin. In my mission to ensure that our referees remain to be regarded as the best in the world I drove a hard bargain with the referee’s in my department. I demand high performance and if not achieved I addressed this in no uncertain terms. This was apparently not acceptable for certain individuals within the fraternity.

I will never apologise for the expectations and high standards set. In retrospect I appreciate that it is not always about the message but also about the how it is conveyed. Individuals differ and the same result can be achieved by having regard to different personality types and treating them accordingly, without negating on standard and expectation.

I am advised by my attorney to refrain from any comment on the findings of the CCMA or the appropriateness of the sanction imposed under the circumstances. I have instructed my attorney to take the applicable legal steps to take the finding and sanction imposed on review.

It’s a sad end to a glittering career but the accusations were clearly not conducive to a fully effective team.

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