Zim match agent shocked by SA-Spurs deal
JOHANNESBURG. — SABC Sport can exclusively reveal that Chelsea were the first football club, through UK-based FIFA match agent Ellen Chiwenga of Zimbabwe, to approach the South African government for the sleeve sponsorship deal, which was set to cost around R760-million over a three-year period.
News broke earlier this week that the South African government, through the Ministry of Tourism and its agency South Africa Tourism, had been trying to finalise a similar deal with Tottenham Hotspur worth close to R150 million more.
The public broadcaster’s sports desk is in possession of the PowerPoint presentations, partnership proposal documents, and the proposed sleeve sponsorship images of the Chelsea squad as this deal was just a few signatures away from being concluded back in 2021 or into 2022.
“What I can tell you is that I’ve had extensive discussions with the relevant stakeholders in South Africa regarding a potential partnership deal with ‘The Blues’,” Chiwenga, a Zimbabwean who is based in the UK, told SABC Sport.
“It all started in 2021 as I could see the damages caused by the pandemic in a country where tourism plays such a major role, as a source of revenue and employment – this is why I contacted ‘Visit South Africa’.
“In the proposal, the government, through SA Tourism’s budget allocation, was going to pay Chelsea £12 million annually for the duration of the three-year deal, which was scheduled to commence from 1 July 2022 until 30 July 2025.
“Tottenham’s proposal would work out at £14.2 million a year — I was shocked, and I still am. After spending almost half-a-year speaking with South Africa about the opportunity to boost its tourism through a partnership with an incredibly successful, leading English Premier League club.
“How can everyone involved change their minds so quickly? Does it make sense? Why not Chelsea? Why (is the Tottenham deal) more expensive? This is not straightforward.
“I brought everything to the table, and somebody is having a ‘free lunch’ at the expense of South Africans. Doesn’t it taste bitter?”
According to several documents, which includes a 44-page PowerPoint presentation, the Chelsea sponsorship was going to be part of Tourism SA’s plan to revive the country as a tourist destination, to recover from the ongoing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was highlighted that about 2.8 million tourists had visited South Africa in 2020, which was a 72.6percent) decrease from the 10.2 million tourists recorded in 2019.
This meant the tourism and travel sectors’ contribution to the country’s economy fell from roughly R363 billion (6.9 percent) in 2019 to just R182-billion (3.7 percent)) in 2020, while international visitors’ spending plummeted by 66 percent) from R134-billion in 2019 to just R46-billion in 2020.
SABC Sport has also seen communication between the stakeholders around this proposal, from high-ranking officials in the Presidency, Ministries of Tourism, Sports, Arts and Culture, and their agency Brand South Africa, as well as Chelsea’s head office in London.
In this sleeve partnership, Chelsea promised in the proposal to deliver prime-time TV advertising in each of SA’s tourism markets around the world, with a broadcast audience of around 600 million people at the time of the discussions (2021).
Both the men’s and women’s senior teams of Chelsea were going to spot the Visit South Africa mark in their jerseys in all their matches.
When pressed by SABC Sport on the matter, Tourism SA CEO Themba Khumalo, who has been with the organisation since 2019, denied any knowledge of the Chelsea proposal for a sleeve sponsorship deal.
“No, I’ve got no idea. I’m not aware of it. Maybe it could have reached the department but, as Themba, I have never seen it,” responded Khumalo.
SABC Sport has learnt that SA Tourism will push ahead with the Tottenham deal, which could be signed in the United Kingdom this week.
Former Bafana Bafana captain Bongani Khumalo who played briefly for Tottenham after the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa is believed to be one of the faces of this proposed union. — SABC Sport.