South Africa lives and breathes football. Like oxygen, money is being pumped into the game in the form of prize money.
South African bank Absa renewed its sponsorship of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) for the next five years. The Absa Premiership is the richest sport competition in Africa, with R16 million ($1.9 million) up for grabs.
The current season will be different from previous seasons as it will be divided into four quarters, to be called the Q-innovation—the first of its kind in the world. As there are 16 teams in the PSL, each team will play 30 games throughout the season. The four quarters will alternate between seven and eight games, beginning with seven games in the first quarter. The winning team of each quarter will win R1.5 million ($182,600). The overall winner of the Absa Premiership will win R10 million ($1.2 million)—this means that there is a possibility of one team winning up to R16 million in a season. A bonanza for even the wealthiest of clubs.
Irvin Khoza—known in football circles as the Iron Duke—is chairman of the PSL and of the reigning league champions, Orlando Pirates. He is delighted with the renewal of the Absa sponsorship as well as the extra prize money.
“At the PSL, we are very excited with the Absa sponsorship and the new innovation that we have come up with,” he says.
“The prize money is very encouraging and surely it will help improve the standard of our football. When you look at our fixtures these days there is no game that is predictable because anything is possible in terms of the results. So it is going to be a very interesting season whereby all the teams that are competing in the PSL will be determined to do well from the beginning. We have very passionate supporters and fans who follow the progress of the PSL and we hope they will enjoy the quality football that the teams will be displaying on the field of play.”
MTN, the African cellphone giant, has also shown confidence in the PSL and has renewed their sponsorship for the next three years meaning that the MTN 8, with its popular slogan ‘Wafa Wafa’, will continue. The- winner-takes-it-all competition is one of the most-fascinating knockout cup competitions whereby, after merely four games, the champions win R8 million ($969,700).
MTN South Africa chief marketing officer, Serame Taukobong, is content that after a very successful four years of partnership with the PSL, which has benefited South African football, they will continue to invest in local football development and upcoming football stars.
“The MTN 8 is unique and is a very interesting competition that many people follow, hence we are so pleased that our partnership with PSL continues. It is even more exciting because we have the competition for the fans whereby they also have the opportunity to win some great prizes. We are looking forward to celebrating many more milestones in this MTN 8 exciting cup competition,” says Taukobong.
This season the football fans have shown great interest in attending the MTN 8 games—whether it’s the inexperienced or seasoned teams playing—crowds have been impressive. As the MTN 8 cup competition happens during the early stages of the season it showcases each team’s new players.
MTN was involved in bringing the world famous Manchester United to South Africa during their pre-season tour friendly games against Amazulu and Ajax Cape Town. By the way, if you need an example of how much money really is in football, Manchester United—the most valuable sporting brand in the world—is worth $2.23 billion. The fact that the two small PSL sides could compete on the same level as the nineteen-times English champions is a clear indication that the standard of football in South Africa has shown signs of improvement. Players across Africa show great interest in plying their trade in South Africa because of the magnificent stadium facilities and high salaries. Some top players in the PSL—who play for the big teams like Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns—earn more than some of the overseas players. These top earners include: Sundowns captain Teko Modise; Pirates striker Benedict McCarthy and Chiefs forward Bernard Parker.
The Telkom knockout cup is another competition in the PSL, which attracts interest, especially due to the R4.2 million ($511,000) prize money and the awards presented to individual players. What is encouraging for football in Africa is that the Nedbank Cup allows small teams from the lower divisions to participate, in what sometimes turns into a David-and-Goliath showdown for the R6 million ($729,600) prize money.
SuperSport, the satellite television channel which broadcasts across the continent, has been granted the television rights worth around R2 billion ($243.3 million) to broadcast the games live. Football clubs benefit greatly from these television rights because they get the grant from the PSL which helps them with funding. They can prepare for games properly, afford to stay in five-star hotels; travel on expensive flights, hire reputable coaches and pay good salaries to their players.
It appears failure is no barrier to the flood of cash into the South African game. The national team, Bafana Bafana, has performed poorly in recent games. The team failed to qualify for the last African Cup of Nations and struggled in the qualifying games of the World Cup against weak teams such as Ethiopia and Botswana.
Despite its lukewarm game, Bafana Bafana got a large financial boost from SABMiller, the owner of Castle Lager, which renewed its sponsorship of R100 million ($12.1 million) for the next five years.
The FIFA 2010 Football World Cup was a big success in South Africa when it comes to the organization of the event. The legacy continues as more and more investment pours into the country. Furthermore, South Africa will benefit for decades to come from its world-class stadium facilities and infrastructure which was built for the championships.
In the 1960s, Orlando Pirates used to travel hundreds of kilometers from Johannesburg to Durban on the back of an open truck. Now, they could afford to fly in private jets and the money, despite the recession, appears as likely as the Indian Ocean to dry up.