Transnet tells Safa it's out and there's no turning back

Football body asks SOE to stay as development sponsor for year

Nkareng Matshe Sports editor
Safa CEO Tebogo Motlanthe.
Safa CEO Tebogo Motlanthe.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Transnet is adamant it wants to cease its sponsorship of the Safa School of Excellence, despite the football body’s insistence that the rail company "cannot" just up and leave.

The state-owned company confirmed it had first given notice of its intent to exit the sponsorship arrangement as far back as 2015, and again in 2018, with Safa promising to get its house in order to allow for a smooth parting of ways.

Last month, Sowetan reported that Transnet had written to Safa to inform the local football governing body that it intended to cut ties with the School of Excellence, which it has sponsored since 1994, helping it to unearth some of the best footballers seen in this country.

Addressing the media last week, Safa chief executive Tebogo Motlanthe maintained Transnet would be in breach of the trust deed governing its relationship with the association if it exited without finding a replacement financial backer.

“You can’t just divorce; we must go to court and get a divorce decree,” Motlanthe was quoted as saying, but it seems Transnet has made the unilateral decision to vacate the unhappy marital home.

Responding to a query from Sowetan this week, the company insisted it wants out immediately as it had given Safa sufficient notice. Sowetan understands the desperate Safa wants to be given at least until December to find a replacement.

“Transnet has been the sole funder of the school since its inception and its decision to exit the institution is not new. It was first raised with Safa in 2015. At the time Safa appealed to Transnet to allow more time to look at alternative support systems. Seven years later, this has not materialised,” Transnet said.

The company said it “again engaged Safa” in 2018 regarding its exit and presented a phased exit plan to meet legal obligations. “Safa again appealed for a grace period of ‘a year’ to plan from its side. Four years later this has not materialised.”

Motlanthe told Sowetan he couldn’t comment as the parties will meet on Monday to discuss the issue. “I can’t answer on matters about 2018, for instance, because I was not at Safa. But I can give you more clarity after Monday’s meeting,” he said.

Transnet, meanwhile, unequivocally told Safa to find an alternative sponsor for the school which costs the parastatal R20m per year. “The reality is Safa – as the custodian of football development in SA – should ultimately find a solution to the future of the facility and, in our view, has had more than enough time to do so. Transnet will continue to engage with Safa to discuss the future of the school without Transnet sponsorship.”

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