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


  • South Africa Tourism acting chief executive officer Themba Khumalo says the board has made a conditional approval to support the sponsorship of Tottenham Hotspur.
  • The deal has raised the temperatures of various stakeholders who feel the money could be better used.
  • Khumalo said Tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu wasn’t briefed because the decision made by the board wasn’t final.

South African Tourism’s (SAT) acting chief executive officer Themba Khumalo confirmed on Thursday that they were forging ahead with a proposed sponsorship of English premiership side Tottenham Hotspur and that the board had given conditional approval.

SAT has came under fire after the Daily Maverick’s reporting of its 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.

The news was greeted with shock from many corners of the South African sports community on Wednesday, with federations and athletes suggesting that such a large sum of money would be of more benefit if spent on these shores to benefit local sports development.  

In exchange for the investment, SA Tourism would receive kit branding, interview backdrop branding, match-day advertising, partnership announcements, training camps in South Africa, and free access to tickets and stadium hospitality.

Khumalo, who wasn’t in a position to confirm or deny the figures of the sponsorship, said the SA Tourism board had made a conditional approval of the deal after travelling to the United Kingdom last month, but various governmental stakeholders weren’t contacted to filter down the details after the 31 January meeting.

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

“The board made a conditional approval because it commercially makes sense, but it needs communication with the stakeholders to make sure they’re aligned,” Khumalo told reporters.

“The stakeholders were not engaged because we were going to do so before the leak came out.

“We believe in the engagement, but there isn’t a signed contract with the entity. There was a conversation that led to the conditional approval.

“There’s no signed contract, but there is an intention to. We need to do due diligence and follow government processes.

“We had to halt this conversation to have this conversation, so once we complete this one, we’ll look forward.

“The other teams had tourism partners and Spurs didn’t have one. We looked at every team in that tier.”

Khumalo said tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu could not be briefed on the plans until the board had arrived at a final decision.

“The minister could not be briefed until the board made a decision to support or not to support,” Khumalo said.

“There wasn’t a chance for the minister to be aware until the decision was made and there are no third parties involved.

“The deal is between SA Tourism and the envisaged party, so there are no agencies involved in the commercial arrangements.”

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

Khumalo was firm in saying the deal wasn’t about football, but to access viewership markets in the United Kingdom that would be keen on travelling to South Africa.

Khumalo said the UK is one of South Africa’s premium travelling markets, and that SAT could not use its budget to fill out service delivery that is mandated by other ministries through legislation. 

“The money that is invested in tourism isn’t money that’s required for other needs in the country. There are departments that are dedicated to that,” Khumalo said.

“Ours is to spend money to persuade travellers to come to South Africa to spend money. That is what we’re legislated to do.

“Sport and entertainment are audience aggregators, so people will pay money to have you access their product.

“Our deal has nothing to do with football because ours is to access the viewers who watch the football to become part of the travelling market to South Africa.

“We are accessing the audience in the EPL so that they can come to South Africa to spend money here through tourism. This deal is not isolation with other deals that we have in place because it’s not about football, it’s about audiences.”

ALSO READ | DA opposes SA’s R1bn sponsorship deal ‘lunacy’ and will send a delegation to Tottenham to get answers

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