Cape Town – There has been a huge outcry from all sectors of society over the Tottenham Hotspur sponsorship deal by Tourism SA has reached hysterical proportions, and quite rightly so.
This is no time to be spending millions on sports sponsorship because the country’s economy is in dire straits. The impact of the country’s foundering state-owned enterprises (SOEs) is such that South Africa has become a state of disaster.
This is not the time to ramp up tourism drives when daily curses like loadshedding, high unemployment and out-of-control crime have become a nightmare in the lives of citizens.
Much of the anger and criticism directed at SA Tourism would be far more beneficial for South African sport if it was channelled at the national government. On so many levels, the government has failed South African sport for many years and it seems there is no relief in sight.
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The government has a basic duty to provide sports facilities, allocate grants for developing infrastructure, making funds available for specialised programmes for the overall development of sports.
Closely behind the government in terms of providing wherewithal should be organisations such as universities and corporates that have played major roles in national sport around the globe.
The USA for example has been the world’s leading athletics power for decades. They have won the most Olympic gold medals in track and field history. On a recent visit to the USA, I interviewed a member of the US track and field federation and asked him to explain the country’s success.
In essence, the country’s universities have all made massive investments in athletics. They have made first-class facilities available, employed the best coaches and allocated funds on a grand scale to ensure athletes can compete with the best in the world.
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In South Africa, rugby has also benefitted massively from the investment made by private schools. South Africa’s Springboks have won the Rugby World Cup three times since 1995. The input of the country’s rugby-controlling body in the development of the game pales in comparison.
The private schools have laid on first-class facilities and have made bursaries available for learners whose families can’t afford private school education. Government schools on the whole have nothing or poor facilities in comparison.
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Imagine if the wave of anger in the wake of SA Tourism’s Spurs sponsorship was directed at the national government.
The South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC), the controlling body for all high performance sport in South Africa, has roundly condemned the three-year proposed R1-billion deal Spur.
However, in condemning the proposed deal Sascoc hastened to add they were pleased that there is recognition in the tourism industry of the role and reach of sport and its impact on tourism.
In this regard, two African countries have led the way. Malawi have a tourism partnership agreement Spanish second-tier side, CD Leganés. The name Malawi appears on the front of their match-day jerseys.
Three years ago Rwanda struck a deal with Arsenal to promote their country as a tourist destination. The words ‘Visit Rwanda’ appears on the jersey sleeve.
Rwanda also have a deal with leading French Ligue 1 title bearers, Paris Saint-Germain, since 2019. No official figures have been made available but media reports in Rwanda and Malawi say the partnerships have been massively beneficial for tourism in those countries.