South African Tourism’s controversial $51.5m sponsorship deal with English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur will be discussed by the country’s president Cyril Ramaphosa after sparking uproar.
Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu will meet with Ramaphosa this week following the outcry, which has seen sport federations and labour unions criticise the amount of money being spent on a club in Europe while they struggle to make ends meet domestically.
South Africa Tourism (SAT) have provisionally agreed a three-year deal shirt sponsorship deal with Tottenham starting at the beginning of the 2023/24 season and concluding at the end of the 2026/27 season.
In exchange for the investment, SAT will receive kit branding, interview backdrop branding, match-day advertising, partnership announcements, training camps in South Africa as well as free access to tickets and stadium hospitality.
But on 3 February, Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said that Mr Ramaphosa “did not think spending so much money in the manner that is being suggested will be justified”.
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The meeting is likely to be convened before the President’s annual State of the Nation address which takes place at the opening of Parliament on Thursday.
Sisulu met with SAT board members over the weekend to discuss the proposal – a proposal which she denies having seen before news of the controversial deal was leaked to the Daily Maverick website last week.
Since then, three SAT board members – Enver Duminy, Ravi Nadasen and Rosemary Anderson – resigned with immediate effect over the weekend, ostensibly because of their opposition to the proposed deal.
Themba Khumalo, acting Chief Executive of SAT, believes the deal would assist in bringing in large numbers of tourists into the country and would provide a good return on the investment given the large worldwide following of the Premier League.
Khumalo revealed that the north London club had been chosen because it was the only one of the Premier League’s top eight teams that was still available for such a sponsorship deal.
However, in a new twist, a tweet by UtdChronicles showed a video of an excited Khumalo opening a Manchester United branded box containing the Red Devils’ white away jersey with a large “Visit South Africa” emblazoned on the front of the shirt.
“1.1 billion followers worldwide – if we convert just 1% there’s 110 million. So this is a proposal from Manchester United,” he is heard exclaiming on the video which has been verified, according to UtdChronicles.
The Old Trafford club is searching for a new shirt front sponsor “in a normalised market” following a decision to end a deal with TeamViewer which was done at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic for a sum believed to be $56.6 million per year.
This is much less than the $77 million per year deal it had until 2021 with American car manufacturer Chevrolet.
Shortly after news of the proposed Spurs sponsorship deal broke, many of the country’s national sports federations expressed outrage saying the money could be better spent on development projects and financing struggling athletes.
The Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU), the country’s biggest trade union federation labelled the proposed deal as a misguided vanity project.