Johannesburg - ‘We’re not being done a favour.”
This is how the Moses Mabhida Stadium management responded to the criticism that followed the iconic venue being confirmed as the overwhelming choice to host this year’s MTN8 final between SuperSport United and Cape Town City on September 29.
Stadium manager Vusi Mazibuko told City Press this week that the arena, which was built from scratch for the 2010 World Cup, won the day because of its appealing business model.
“We have been following the outcry from the people in general and we’re not being done a favour,” said Mazibuko.
“We don’t wait for any bidding to host events. We go to football content owners, which is the Premier Soccer League [PSL] and the clubs, to request dates for possible finals and we block the dates on our calendar. It is risky, but that is the strategy we use. It is part of our plan as a stadium to host category-A games, and when the PSL responds, it responds to our strategy.”
Mazibuko also laughed off claims that Moses Mabhida Stadium thrived on “deep pockets”, giving it an advantage over other venues.
“People are always suspicious that we are pumping money in or there is some form of corruption involved. No, in this instance the PSL is paying for venue hire, which is R180 000, and we provide services because we are fully commercialised. We then share the net profit with the content owner on a 50/50 basis because we also need to generate income.
“For quite some time, we have positioned Durban as a venue of choice for major events and no one can take away the competitive edge we have.”
Mazibuko added that the stadium was also best located geographically, particularly for the fans who will be travelling from Gauteng, Free State, Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape.
The September 29 final will be the 11th major PSL knockout decider to be hosted at the mega stadium. It will also be the third time that top-eight champions will be crowned at the Durban stadium.
Last weekend, Moses Mabhida hosted Bafana Bafana in their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match against Libya. The game was the first official match to be staged at the stadium after parts of it were damaged by rioting fans in the aftermath of Kaizer Chiefs’ Nedbank Cup semifinal loss to Free State Stars five months ago.
Mazibuko boasted that the R3.4 billion mega arena was a sponsor’s dream when it came to hosting cup finals.
“We don’t outsource service providers; everything is internal and we have the capacity to meet hospitality for matches of any magnitude.”
Meanwhile, MTN said: “Our desire has always been to take the beautiful game of football to the fans, and we believe Moses Mabhida will be reachable for them.”
In an emailed response, MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan said three possible venues for the final were put forward – Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit and Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium.
“Once the two finalists were decided, stakeholders that include the two teams [SuperSport and City] remaining were engaged to pick the ideal venue,” she said.
She said Mbombela Stadium dropped off the list because it was an alternative venue for SuperSport.
“Cape Town City then made it clear that travelling to Polokwane for the final would be exhausting for them, considering that they would have to fly for two hours to Johannesburg and then drive to Polokwane.
“In addition, Cape Town City indicated they had a close fixture schedule [against Bidvest Wits at Cape Town Stadium] just three days after the final and found travelling from Polokwane arduous for their players.
“SuperSport were also agreeable to the Moses Mabhida choice, saying it was a fairly accessible and neutral venue for both teams and their fans.
“The PSL then came back to us saying the two teams both preferred Moses Mabhida Stadium and, as the sponsors, we were comfortable with that.”
O’Sullivan said Port Elizabeth was also touted as a potential venue, but Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was not available as it was already booked for the Springboks’ Rugby Championship game against the New Zealand All Blacks on the same day.