Isdell’s gift to kick off Ikeys stadium initiative

Former UCT RFC flank Neville Isdell presenting his great gift to UCT
UCT man Gavin Fernie shares his views on a once in a generation event that is set to benefit UCT rugby and University Sports significantly.
A special moment in the history of UCT rugby took place in the UCT Club last Monday, the 7th March. Dr Max Price hosted a celebration at which a cheque for US $1million was ceremonially presented to Dr. Price by Neville Isdell. The fifty or so guests applauded, cameras flashed, glasses were raised, and both Dr. Price and Neville Isdell said a few inspirational words about Neville’s magnificent gift of US $1million to the UCTRFC.

The background to this seminal moment is that Neville Isdell, the recently retired Chairman and CEO of Coca Cola International, and a fiery flame haired flank of the mid sixties, who played in a UCT 1stXV alongside such Varsity rugby luminaries of that era, as H.O. De Villiers, Mike Lawless, Mike Nicolai, Gus Enderstein, Mike Hoard, Preston Robertson, Piet Olivier, Peter Swift, John Coetzee, and Johnny Wootton, was fulfilling a vision he has had for some time. During one of his regular visits to Cape Town some three years ago, Neville got caught up in the excitement and success of the UCT Ikey Tigers in their quest to become Varsity Cup Champions.

The constraints imposed on UCT rugby by the severe limitations of the Green Mile on campus, provided the catalyst for a new concept to be hatched. The Green Mile is simply not suitable for big rugby games, attracting large crowds, and requiring special lighting for TV coverage. The notorious ‘Green Mile Gale’ which bedevils most games, is another factor prompting a move to a more suitable home venue. It is not feasible to effect major alterations to the Green Mile facilities for a number of reasons. Lack of space for stands, Heritage restrictions on tall lights and other essential structures for a multi- purpose sports facility, and the wind factor, are the primary reasons for UCT approving a project to find and develop a new multi-purpose sports facility, with rugby enjoying a logical primacy.

Neville Isdell has set down a marker of significant proportions to kick start a Capital Fundraising Campaign to finance a new facility within acceptable range of the main campus, and incorporating the facilities for all the UCT RFC home games, as well as being the venue for a range of UCT sporting activities.

It is now in the capable hands of the UCT Rugby Club, to work in close collaboration with the UCT authorities, to find a suitable venue, to formulate a building and upgrading programme with the consent of all parties involved, and to raise the rest of the capital required for adequate facilities at the new home venue. It is estimated that an initial R20million is the realistic target for phase one of the project, to be completed by 2013.

All the right ingredients exist in the broader UCT constituency for the successful realization of Neville Isdell’s vision. The inspired leadership of Dr. Max Price, a UCT Vice-Chancellor who constructively supports UCT sport as part a newly defined vision and who appreciates the value of rugby to the university and the breath of fresh ideas and marketing introduced by the newly formed Ikey Foundation, all point to a successful ‘ Home of Ikey Tigers’ project, as long as the UCT rugby faithful buy into the concept.

There is every reason to believe that the broader UCT constituency will answer the call.

Neville inspires the team as he hands out the jerseys ahead of the Maties match

Dr Max Price, Edwina Kannemeyer and Neville Isdell at the presentation event