soccer scoring on and off field

Ramatsiyi Moholoa

South Africa's winning of the bid to host the 2010 World Cup is already beginning to have an impact on local soccer with major companies queueing to finance the sport.

What makes it even more interesting is that the PSL has successfully lured companies that had not shown an interest in soccer traditionally.

The incredible sponsorship boom for professional soccer comes at a time when many people with a passion for football consistently complain about the low standard of the beautiful game. The boom is seen by many as the dawn of a new era in the improvement of soccer.

It all started last September when the PSL secured a record-breaking R1,6 billion from pay television station SuperSport International in broadcasting rights to screen Premiership and cup matches.

PSL chairman Irvin Khoza, who was highly instrumental in all the deals, said the recent developments were a step in the right direction for their vision to make the PSL one of the best leagues globally.

He said since the redevelopment of their brand, there were many companies in the queue to get involved in the PSL, where most of the Premiership matches are shown on SuperSport and SABC.

Some of the PSL games even enjoy higher viewership locally than those in the English Premiership and other European countries.

"The PSL is one the fastest growing brands globally where we are also strong on the league sponsorship. We are number one in the world in content control television rights," Khoza said.

"We also own the television rights. We are also number one in the world in terms of graphics and right managements. We are number seven in the world in terms of the television rights in the world."

Said Kaizer Motaung, the PSL finance committee chairman: "This is a great achievement and it marks the dawn of a new era in football. This would change the landscape of football in this country.

"It's a dream come true for us who have always wanted to take football to greater heights."

Kjetil Siem, PSL chief executive, said: "The confidence shown by the corporate world in our brand augurs well for our plans to make the PSL one of the greatest. We are now working closely with the clubs to run their affairs in a more professional way, in line with the international trends.

"We are dealing with the things that are very common in most of the leagues, including being more media friendly, developing a website that is updated on a regular basis.

"There are other things like branding and merchandising."

Andy Scott, Nedbank head of sponsorship, said their arrival in soccer was part of their journey in repositioning to make them a financial institution that many South Africans will proudly associate themselves with.

"It was a golden opportunity for us to get involved in big-time soccer when the PSL Cup was available. We are moving away from being the elite market bank.

"It is no secret that we are incredibly delighted to have been able to find space in soccer by sponsoring the PSL Cup," Scott said. "The winners will represent South Africa in the Confederation Cup, which is an added bonus for the participating clubs.

"The good thing about the Nedbank Cup is that there is also a development aspect in it, with 16 Premiership, eight First Division and eight Safa clubs participating.

"We want to make the Nedbank Cup Africa's major soccer competition. With the winners taking home a whooping R6 million, we strongly believe the big money will definitely help improve the standard of soccer.

"It will also help our Bafana Bafana to get quality players as part of their preparations for the 2010 World Cup.

"We are bringing the supporters on board in this competition. They also stand a chance of winning great prizes, including going to watch international games for those who have a transaction account with us.

"We will donate R2,50 to the development of soccer for every transaction. It is a wonderful opportunity for us now that we have now completed the bouquet - now that we are also involved in soccer.

"We are the official sponsor of road running in South Africa, the big golf challenge in Sun City at the end of every year and sport for the physically disabled," said Scott.

Happy Ntshingila, Absa's group executive for marketing, has described their massive financial support for the Premiership as a clear demonstration of their faith in the beautiful game.

"Through this sponsorship, Absa makes a fundamental contribution to the continued growth and ongoing development of the quality of South African football and taking it to even greater heights. Our financial support of the beautiful game is a true demonstration of an idea that we are confident will deliver results.

"Together with the PSL, our partnership will ensure an even better quality of football. The fact that we are giving out R10 million to the Premiership champions is a clear demonstration of our commitment to helping in improving the standard of soccer as we (South Africa) gear ourselves up for the 2010 World Cup."

Imtiaz Patel, SuperSport chief executive, said: "We have every confidence that this partnership [with the PSL] will take football in South Africa to unprecedented heights and levels of success.

"This investment is about our confidence and trust in the leadership of the PSL."

With the corporate world showing confidence in the PSL, the league will soon start attracting the best players.