Sponsorship boom for SA soccer

28 February 2008

The launch of the Nedbank Cup knockout competition on Monday marks the continuation of a trend – accelerated by the country’s upcoming hosting of the 2010 Fifa World Cup – in which money from big business has been flowing into football in South Africa.

With a total prize purse of R19.3-million, including R6-million for the winners, R2.5-million for the runners-up and R1-million for the losing semi-finalists, the Nedbank Cup has set a new benchmark for knockout competitions, much as the Premier Soccer League (PSL) is setting the standard for soccer sponsorships on the continent.

Five years, R400-million
Nedbank’s deal overall is far bigger than the prize money on offer in the Nedbank Cup; it totals R400-million over five years.

PSL CEO Kjetil Siem praised Nedbank’s support of local soccer this week, saying the knockout competition was “one of the most important events on our calendar, and with their support they are certainly raising the profile of this tournament.”

As newcomers to the football industry, Nedbank should be further congratulated, Siem said. “They’ve taken giant leaps to make sure that their contribution will aid the development and further enhance the beautiful game in this country.

“We are confident that the Nedbank Cup will become not only the number one tournament in the country, but the number one tournament on the continent.”

R500-million, R1.6-billion more
In August 2007, South African Breweries (SAB) and Absa announced a joint sponsorship of more than R500-million over the next five years for South African football. SAB is firmly behind Bafana Bafana, while Absa sponsors the PSL’s Premier Division.

A lot of money from the sponsorships is also being channelled into the development of soccer in South Africa.

On top of the sizeable sponsorships by Nedbank, SAB, and Absa, the PSL pulled off an astounding coup when it signed a R1.6-billion broadcast deal with SuperSport International in June 2007.

The PSL, thanks to these sponsorships, is now placed seventh on the list of leagues with the biggest sponsorship revenue in the world. That’s some achievement – and perhaps surprising when one considers that Bafana Bafana is currently ranked a lowly 70th in the Fifa world rankings.

Challenge to PSL teams
For South African soccer lovers, the hope is that the big money in the game will help lift the standard of both the PSL and the national team.

PSL CEO Kjetil Siem has recognised the gap between the money in the game and the performances of the clubs, and has urged the clubs to raise their standards.

“Once again,” he said, “the ball is in the court of the respective clubs to display a higher level of professionalism befitting the rise in commercial partners for the PSL.

“If the standards of professionalism improve, the standard of play on the field will improve, and with that comes financial rewards from our partners.”

Bad patch
The amazing amounts of money pouring into South African soccer has made the PSL a financially sound and solid business. However, before Trevor Phillips took over as CEO for the second time in 2002, the league went through a bad patch.

Joe Ndlela, who succeeded Phillips after his first spell in charge, was fired for questionable financial dealings. His successor, Robin Peterson, was at the helm when 43 people lost their lives at a match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, so he didn’t last long in the job.

In fact, after Peterson resigned, the PSL functioned without a CEO for almost a year.

Those days seem as if they are in the distant past – although they happened not long ago – thanks to the support of big business, and the boost that the 2010 Fifa World Cup has given local soccer.

Nedbank Cup
The Nedbank Cup is not a new competition; the financial institution has taken over the knockout cup from Absa, which has turned its attention to league football.

The Nedbank Cup features 32 teams, made up of the 16 PSL clubs, eight clubs from the first division, and eight clubs from the amateur ranks. It thus captures the spirit of England’s world-renowned FA Cup, in which the minnows get to take on the giants and every year produces astonishing upsets.

Besides the significant money the winners will take home, there is further incentive for winning the competition, with a place in the CAF Confederation Cup on the line.

The Confederation Cup was previously known as the African Cup Winners Cup, and only once has a South African club won it. Kaizer Chiefs did the trick in 2001 when they beat InterClube of Angola 2-1 on aggregate in the final.

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