Turning PMB into sporting city

2010-09-07 00:00

THE city of Pietermaritzburg, which has flirted with the idea of entrenching itself as an “events city”, should take a leaf out of Mangaung/Bloemfontein’s book by actively marketing the city through its sporting assets, including the local football club, as well as its sporting infrastructure.

The driving force behind Mangaung’s initiative, senior marketing officer with the municipality Gustaf Claassens, the Msunduzi Municipality could learn several valuable lessons about how to market itself through its sporting assets, starting with PSL outfit Maritzburg United.


Mangaung has spent the past 10 years carving out an identity as one of the country’s premier sporting cities.

Bloemfontein boasts several well-supported football and rugby outfits, namely Bloemfontein Celtic, Free State Stars and the Free State Cheetahs rugby team.

According to recent economic studies, these sporting outfits have pumped tens of millions of rands into the local economy.

“We know we are not a Cape Town or Durban, which have mountains and the sea. But we are an events city. Sport is a major strength and there are other events, such as arts festivals, conferences and musical events. Medical tourism is another major drawcard.

“All our facilities, such as hotels, the waterfront and the zoo, are within a four-kilometre radius of the stadium and major sporting infrastructure,” said Claassens.

Although the Fifa World Cup was a major catalyst, the initiative actually began about a decade ago when the greater Mangaung area was created, incorporating Bloemfontein, Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu.


Pietermaritzburg has successfully hosted several major cycling and mountain bike events in recent years. The city is well-known for major national events such as the Comrades and Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon.

Swimming remains hugely popular, with the Midmar Mile attrancting hundreds of entrants.

The city’s sporting infrastructure should also be considered.

Several stadiums already exist, most notably the recently revamped Harry Gwala Stadium, the Maritzburg Oval and a nearby athletics track.

These facilities, all in relatively close proximity, could be the starting point for the creation of a sporting complex or precinct.

The city could also push for Harry Gwala Stadium to host minor Bafana Bafana matches, or even a national football cup semi-final.

The GC Jolliffe Swimming Pool has hosted national competitions, most recently the SA Short Course Swimming Champs.

Claassens stressed that the municipality would have to drive the initiative, adding that a non-political co-ordinating/advisory committee should be set up, incorporating all stakeholders. The key role-players would include sporting club representatives, tourism authorities and representatives from the business community.

“Although the municipality would have to come to the party in terms of funding the marketing initiatives, other role-players such as the business community could sponsor certain aspects of the strategy,” Claassens said.

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