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Leeds United was SA tourism’s first EPL target before Tottenham as deal debate rages on


  • News24 learned that Leeds United was a priority for South African Tourism from a sponsorship perspective.
  • This comes in light of the proposed sponsorship deal between the entity and Tottenham Hotspur.
  • The deal, which hasn’t been finalised, is the focus of a sharp debate.

Leeds United, News24 has learned, is the other team South African Tourism had initially approached for sponsorship purposes in the English Premiership.

This came in light of the entity’s proposed plans for a three-year deal worth £42.5 million (about R900 million) starting at the beginning of the 2023/24 English Premier League season and ending at the end of the 2026/27 season with North London-based English Premiership side Tottenham Hotspur.

Leeds United, who were out of the Premiership for 16 years, have a sizeable following in South Africa, with the club’s South African endearment note being former Bafana captain Lucas Radebe and the late Phil Masinga.

SABC Sport also reported that there was an approach to sponsor Chelsea, something that SA Tourism acting chief executive Themba Khumalo said he wasn’t aware of.

Khumalo, at Thursday’s press conference, said another deal was on the table before the Tottenham one.

READ | SA Tourism forging ahead with near-R1 billion Spurs sponsorship ‘conditionally’ as criticism mounts

Khumalo didn’t reveal the name of the potential suitor but said the deal was scuppered by the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which would’ve made it untenable publicly.

“I received a call with regards to a Chelsea deal, and I raised both my hands, and I said I have never seen it,” Khumalo said.

“I have seen a completely different team, but not the one that is being referred to. So, have we received another team? Yes, we have.

“Is it the one that’s been referred to? No. I haven’t seen it. Maybe it’s been seen by a colleague of mine, but has it been formally presented to us as an option? No.

“We wouldn’t be able to speak on behalf of the department, and I think the director general would be able to speak to that.

“I can confirm that I have seen another proposal that we saw in the middle of Covid-19, but not this particular one.

“The board took a position at the time of not whether we should access the audiences or not, but an issue of timing because we were in the middle of Covid-19.

“The timing wasn’t right, but the conditions have changed now as an aggregator of audiences.”

READ | ‘It’s insane!’ SA sports federation heads fume over near-billion-rand Spurs sponsorship proposal

News24 also understands that the British & Irish Lions were a potential target ahead of the 2021 series that was hosted by South Africa.

However, that one fell through because of Covid-19 restrictions that didn’t allow fans to attend matches in South African stadiums

Khumalo said they were not averse to partnering with domestic teams who travel abroad regularly but added they also needed to work within the confines of their budgets and markets.

With Khumalo saying the United Kingdom is their largest market, South Africa has rugby teams campaigning in the United Rugby Championship and the Heineken Champions Cup, where they get to play in England, Northern Ireland (Ulster), Scotland, Wales, and the Republic of Ireland.

“You have to spend to get a return because you can’t shrink yourself into growth,” Khumalo said.

READ | Advertising, kit branding: Inside SA Tourism’s nearly R1bn Tottenham Hotspur sponsorship proposal

“Since the inception of this entity in the 2000s, this money was going to be spent in those countries anyway.

“We’ve got nine offices around the world, and last year, this money was spent, and in years before, so the investment in overseas markets to bring people into the country must continue.

“There is money spent on our domestic tourism programs, and that circulates in our economy, but there’s a portion that must be invested outside of the country to get a return.”

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