PSL: silence over sponsorship shows that the honeymoon is over

2012-08-02 00:00

DESPITE statements by Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairperson Irvin “The Duke” Khoza that there is no crisis, indications are that all is not kosher at the Parktown, Johannesburg, outfit.

It was so uncharacteristic for the PSL to announce their partnership renewal with MTN only on Tuesday when the tournament had already been pencilled to kick off tomorrow, only three days later.

It also raises eyebrows that up to now the league has not issued the Premiership fixtures for the year.

Not only that, the PSL are yet to make an announcement about their partnerships with league sponsors Absa, Nedbank and Telkom. All these agreements have expired.

The silence is quite contrary to the fanfare that surrounded the initial announcements a few years go.

Could this be an indication that the World Cup honeymoon is over?

Recently, the South African Football Association (Safa) — which in 2008 made a groundbreaking announcement that Absa and SAB were to pour R500 million into their coffers over five years — announced an extension of their partnership with the brewer.

However, this time around, the sponsorship is now R20 million a year as compared to the R50 million annually announced in 2008.

Absa is also said to be coming in at R20 million per year over the next five years.

Now the PSL, which have always prided themselves on doing things more professionally and being more powerful than the officials across town at Safa House, seem to be caught in the same whirlwind.

Even the announcement they made earlier about SuperSport renewing their partnership was not as robust as it was in 2007 when they jumped into being one of the Top 10 best-funded leagues in the world.

The increase in sponsorship money was quite minimal.

It does not help either that the PSL have been bleeding top executives in the last few months. Since the departure of Norwegian Kjetil Siem, they have had two CEOs in eight months.

Their formerly long-serving proforma prosecutor Zola Majavu lasted only three months and Stanley Matthews recently tendered his resignation after five months in the hot seat.

Add to that the fact that the 16 National First Division (NFD) clubs are up in arms about the shabby treatment they receive from the organisation they claim treats them as Cinderella cousins, and you have a potpourri of problems.

So under these circumstances, it is quite disingenuous for Khoza to claim that there is no crisis.

Any organisation that loses two CEOs in eight months does have cause for concern.

Any organisation that announces a sponsorship extension three days before the tournament kicks off has a lot of explaining to do.

In fact, Sunday newspapers were even told not to refer to the competition as the MTN8, but just as “Top 8”.

This shows that no agreement had been reached by the weekend, a week before the tournament was set to kick off.

One is tempted to believe those who say the PSL were holding out for more money, but in the end MTN got their way and came in with less than what the league was asking for.

Otherwise, the PSL would have made a noise louder than when the deal was initially announced.

That the Premiership fixtures have yet not been released at this time of the year is an indication that the league and Absa have not reached agreement as yet.

It is clear that the marriage is no longer as cosy as it was heading to the World Cup in 2010. It is also clear that companies are no longer queuing outside the PSL door, cap in hand, begging to come in as sponsors.

This should be a wake-up call, because, while the money was rolling in, very little was done to improve the product.

The honeymoon is definitely over.

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa’s leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press sports editor.

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