Lucrative deal sways United

2014-06-27 00:00

A SWEET deal from the Msunduzi council may have been the clincher that got professional football club Maritzburg United to stay in the city.

Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela said yesterday that the deal was better than that offered by Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. However, he did not have the final figures on hand.

The Port Elizabeth municipality had tried to entice the club with a sponsorship offer of R36 million over a three-year period.

Ndlela said the offer was also innovative as it was not just a case of the municipality handing out cash. Nor was Msunduzi the only partner in the project — the provincial government and the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business were also involved, he said.

The mayor said the municipality will be standing guarantor for an annual sponorship, believed to be about R12 million a year.

He said the aim was to get the money through various channels of sponsorship. This was why the provincial departments of Sports and Recreation and Arts and Culture, the Office of the Premier and business were partners in the deal. The premier’s office is co-ordinating the initiative.

Ndlela said this showed that the decision to support Maritzburg United to stay in Pietermaritzburg was not the council’s alone, but was supported by other spheres of government as well.

He added that they had also come under pressure from the large soccer-loving public of the city who wanted to have a home-based professional club. There were also the benefits of Harry Gwala Stadium being used and maintained and the economic spin-offs to business in having a Professional Soccer League team in the city.

“This is not a one-sided deal. We are also putting conditions in place for Maritzburg United to uphold so that the city and residents benefit from having them here,” Ndlela said.

Maritzburg United’s links to the city, where it has its roots, have been in doubt. Twice it was offered lucrative deals to move to Port Elizabeth.

The municipality came in for heavy criticism the first time around for not making more of an effort to keep the team in the city.

Ndlela said that offering financial support for sports teams was not a core function of the municipality.

“Even now we are coming in as a guarantor and we are mindful that if we don’t succeed in raising the money, we will have to foot the bill. However, we believe that this initiative is worth doing in the long-term interest of growing and developing our city,” Ndlela said.

He added the council was aware of the threat of United’s move to Port Elizabeth but only had a chance to discuss the matter at the Executive Committee meeting last week. At that stage it was a confidential item because the deal still needed to be discussed with the football club.

Ndlela said that since the premier’s office was co-ordinating the initiative it was agreed that they would in future provide information on the project.

The Witness tried to get the final facts and figures on the deal from the premier’s office, but this was not possible yesterday because of the State of the Province Address.

The Democratic Alliance remain critical of the deal. Former councillor and now MP Mergan Chetty, in a letter to The Witness, accused the municipality of placing an added financial burden of R12 million on Msunduzi ratepayers.

Maritzburg United chairperson Farouk Kadodia told The Witness yesterday that the decision to keep the franchise in the city was based largely on the municipality’s long-term commitment to backing the club.

“Football in Pietermaritzburg has always been something very close to my heart and the hearts of the club’s board of directors,” said Kadodia.

“But we do need the support of the city’s major role players and stakeholders if we are to keep PSL football here.

“At the moment we are engaging in a long term partnership with the municipality to explore all ways that they can play a role, and that is very important to us as we move forward.”

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