Jomo Cosmos, Swallows FC bosses reel from ‘double blow’

Cosmos owner Jomo Sono. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Cosmos owner Jomo Sono. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Entrepreneurs and club owners Jomo Sono and David Mogashoa have described the effects of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, which has forced many countries across the globe into lockdown, as a double blow.

The National Treasury has already warned that many businesses and individuals will go bankrupt as a result of the ripple effect of the health crisis.

While Jomo Cosmos owner/coach Sono and Swallows FC boss Mogashoa acknowledged the importance of saving lives ahead of profits, the pair still admitted the harsh realities that will need to be faced once the virus passes.

Their clubs depend on their side businesses to top up the R500 000 monthly grant they receive from the PSL, which is insufficient to sustain any club with no major sponsorship such as the two NFD GladAfrica Championship campaigners.

“I’m not looking at the situation as an individual because it’s a double blow to the world,” Sono told City Press yesterday.

Yes, the pandemic will hit the economy badly. But you can replace money, but not life

“Yes, the pandemic will hit the economy badly. But you can replace money, but not life. That’s why I am not even thinking about Jomo Cosmos now, I am still in shock,” added the respected entrepreneur.

Sono, who as a youngster sold apples and peanuts at football games to make ends meet, was reluctant to reveal the extent of his business interests or if any of them provided essential services during the national lockdown.

The 64-year-old is mostly remembered for opening the first Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Soweto in the 1980s. He is also a shareholder in several companies, with interests in hotels and petroleum.

When asked about his thoughts on the current global debate as football clubs seek to address a deepening cash crunch in the game caused by Covid-19, Sono said: “I’ve got no idea, but I respect the protocols [put in place]. PSL chairperson [Irvin Khoza] and the players union are there [discussing this issue]. Let’s hear what they say; then I will say if I agree or not [to the proposals].”

This week, the England Premier League was locked in crisis talks with the players’ union on how to mitigate and share the losses incurred after fixtures were suspended last month to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The football leagues and clubs want players to accept temporary salary cuts as all games have been postponed until further notice. However, it is feared that this will cause a serious financial strain on the players in the lower divisions, who earn less.

Read: The costs of fixture suspension

And this is Mogashoa’s worst fear, even though world football governing body Fifa is working on how it can provide financial assistance to football based on an assessment of the financial impact the pandemic will have on the game.

“The current situation is indeed a double blow,” sighed the founder of Bahwiti, a company he established in 2009. It specialises in logistics and mobile workshop services.

“As we speak, only three people out of the 46 employees of Bahwiti are working [as part of the essential services].”

Mogashoa said Swallows had 25 players on their books, which he said was a manageable number compared with the 43 they had at the start of the season.

Apart from the financial support from Bahwiti, Swallows have an apparel sponsorship with Umbro as well as a three-year deal with In2IT Technologies SA, which provides the club with a financial cushion for a season.

Mogashoa revealed that the deal with the Johannesburg-based technology services company is reviewed every year. But this is insufficient.

“The grant from the PSL doesn’t even cover the salaries of Swallows players.

"We top it up from the business. Right now, salaries for this month are covered, but if the lockdown goes beyond this month, I am sensing a big problem.

"We have seen internationally how clubs are proposing cutting players’ salaries by half. We don’t wish for that,” said Mogashoa, who is still new in the game since he pumped in the money that rescued Swallows from extinction.

"He did this with the help of politician Panyaza Lesufi, who led an impressive boardroom campaign to revive the brand.

The grant from the PSL doesn’t even cover the salaries of Swallows players.

The budding Johannesburg-based entrepreneur said he had already spent “millions” since he purchased the status of Maccabi FC seven months ago.

In a previous interview, he told City Press that he bought the intellectual property rights of the original Moroka Swallows for more than R1.5 million from the liquidators, while the Maccabi transaction cost R8.5 million.

“All I can say is that we have spent so much money [already] … it runs into millions [of rands]. But when you start any business, you don’t expect to make money,” he said, but he did not divulge the figures.

“But we are doing it for the love of football and only when Swallows are back in the big league can we hope to secure sponsorship,” he said.

Swallows were second on the 16-team GladAfrica Championship log table – seven points adrift of leaders Ajax Cape Town – with six games to go when the PSL suspended all of its league programmes indefinitely on March 16.

Cosmos, on the other hand, were placed second from the bottom and Sono’s side are facing the prospect of relegation.

The NFD champions, who will pocket the R3 million winner’s purse thanks to the GladAfrica sponsorship, will gain automatic promotion to the Absa Premiership.

The second- and third-placed sides will contest for the remaining spot via the play-offs against the premier division team that finishes 15th.

As a parting shot, Sono and Mogashoa pleaded with South Africans to behave and follow all of the measures set out by government and the health authorities during the national lockdown, which is scheduled to end on April 16.

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