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South Africa Premier League facing sponsorship crisis

Posted On Saturday, 28th July 2012
The Premier Soccer League would undoubtedly argue otherwise, but there’s little doubt that, a week before the season is due to start, they are faced with a crisis.

South Africa league starts next week

The Premier Soccer League would undoubtedly argue otherwise, but there’s little doubt that, a week before the season is due to start, they are faced with a crisis.

At the time of writing this, not a single sponsor had been secured for the upcoming season, with the league still engaging the four companies that have so generously backed them with millions of rands for the past five years.

Questions regarding why this situation remained unresolved right up to this late stage have legitimately been asked, but it would seem matters are more complex than when, drawn by the euphoria of World Cup 2010, corporate South Africa was ready to part with wads of cash to be associated with the domestic game.

A lot has changed since those heady days when Absa usurped Standard Bank at the very last moment to emerge at the PSL’s title sponsors in 2007, signing a R500m five-year deal which expires officially on Tuesday.

Today, Absa are apparently baulking at the PSL’s insistence of upping their sponsorship, reasoning they do not have sufficient basis to justify an increase while the banking giants are under financial constraints which have triggered fears of retrenchments.

Those close to the parties say the PSL’s demand of a huge raise from all sponsors is precisely the reason why not one deal has yet been renewed, even though MTN, who sponsor the top eight cup competition that’s supposed to kick off next week, are said to be closest to signing.

Nedbank, too, are chuffed that they have grown as a brand for the past five years – thanks to the popularity of the Nedbank Cup – and would have no problem continuing to be associated with the domestic game.

But the PSL would do well to accept the reality in which several corporates find themselves and soften their approach in negotiations. As already mentioned, five years ago SA football could demand whatever they wanted from potential sponsors due to excitement around the World Cup.

But with companies now shedding jobs it makes it difficult to justify spending close to R90m – as Absa did – every year on football when many employees could soon be out of jobs.

There’s no doubt that sponsors get value for money in terms of the exposure that a PSL platform offers, with almost every game shown on TV, but is the product really commensurate to what they pay? This is the PSL’s biggest challenge. Too many fixtures would qualify as a recommended sleeping pill. Some would struggle to fill half a stadium even if tickets were free.

Many clubs do not care much about development, recycle failed coaches and take fans – who supposedly should be the very basis for the clubs’ existence – for granted.

Last season’s pathetic attendance figures would also have served as a reminder that not all is rosy about the domestic game. It remains unclear how much of the R560m revenue the PSL raked in in the previous financial year was directed towards efforts to attract fans to the games.

It is all good to market the PSL as among the top 10 financially strong leagues in the world, but the reality is that – but for a handful of games – the product is nowhere near that.

Some PSL teams have long forsaken Caf competitions, foolishly not realising that their absolute contempt towards the African Champions League and the Confederations Cup is self-defeating and does not help improve the domestic league – and the national teams – in any way.

There is little doubt that the PSL will continue to enjoy significant backing from corporate SA, but the impasse with their four major sponsors should serve as a reminder that they can no longer rest on their laurels as there’s a lot of room for many things to be improved.

The current situation, in which a chief executive resigns every four months, does not project a good image and only fuels suspicions that the PSL prefers to fill the post with yes-men. By the way, amid this latest crisis, where’s Cambridge Mokanyane, the latest acting CEO? He’s hardly heard, this Mokanyane, and several attempts to solicit comment from him this week drew a blank. Perhaps he and his executive do not realise there’s a crisis.

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