As it stands, South Africa will not be playing last-minute host to the 2014 Africa Cup of Nations. While hosting a tournament like this can be profitable, it’s not feasible for South Africa this time around. They’ve said no to being the big brother and for once, SAFA have made the right decision. By ANTOINETTE MULLER.
While the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations hangs in the balance due to Morocco’s trepidation over hosting it, South Africa have made it clear they will not be the emergency host this time. Morocco have disputed the severity of their concern, insisting that they have not pulled out of hosting the tournament and will work towards a suitable solution at a meeting early in November.
South Africa’s minister for Sport and Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, said last week that South Africa wouldn’t be playing big brother this time around. The South African Football Association (SAFA) also denied that South Africa were ever approached to host the tournament.
“We must [make] it categorically clear that SAFA has not approached the government with regard to this possibility. Nevertheless, as the government also reiterated during interviews throughout this week, there are just too many factors to consider for South Africa if we are to host a tournament of this magnitude,” they said in a statement.
“Our major concern, of course, remains the cost implications of such a tournament when South Africa is currently grappling with its own fiscal challenges.
“A tournament of this nature, if planned outside the normal budgetary cycle, will require budgetary adjustments, a process that is currently not an option.”
Mbalula reiterated those claims, saying: “We did it (host the 2013 Afcon) in solidarity with Libya last year. Our budget cycle will not allow us to host the (2015) Afcon. It is totally impossible. We would like to give this one a pass.”
While South Africa does have the infrastructure to be a backup, it would be a foolish financial decision. Last year, the turnout at many of the games were disappointing and there was little to no money made from ticket revenue. While television and brand association earns a pretty penny for these sorts of tournaments, the $44 million (around R440 million) spent on last year’s edition simply would not be feasible this time around.
Of that fee around R20 million is dished out for the CAF VIPs while the costs were further split between government (the public taxpayer), the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and the host cities. A big concern with hosting a tournament like Afcon is the demands set out by CAF. Most notably, the tax free importation and re-exportation of all CAF goods and foreign exchange; no restrictions on event-related currency transactions; the protection of all CAF ‘marks’ as well as intellectual property and marketing rights; the implementation of an ‘anti-ambushing programme’; no restrictions on the sale and distribution of merchandising; and the provision of all telecommunications infrastructure.
These demands are similar to that of Fifa when hosting a World Cup, so they are nothing new or strange, but they do put strain on resources and cost money. From the big TV bucks and sponsorship rights that rolled in for the 2013 Afcon competition, conservative estimates will put South Africa’s figure at around $4.4 million (around R44 million). Overall net profits were put at around R3.6 million.
Last year, following the 2013 AFCON, it took the Confederation of African Football (CAF) over six months to settle some of its bills. The accounts were eventually settled, but that long and dragged out process is a bit of admin no sporting body has to deal with.
There is very little for South Africa to gain from stepping in as tournament hosts at the last minute. The more cynical will probably feel that the administrators don’t see an opportunity to line their pockets, and while some of that might be true, the overall picture is clear and, for once, the powers that be have made the right decision.
Second to the cost issue is also the Ebola issue. For Morocco, this was one of their biggest concerns. Feelings have been mixed, and Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama has added his voice to the chorus of those who want the tournament to be put on ice.
Enyeama said: “I really hope it doesn’t happen. It is risky, in Africa everyone is hugging you and shaking your hand. But if Caf says it will happen I will play – if Nigeria qualify.”
Alex Song also added his voice to support putting the tournament to be put on hold and has voiced his concerns over the spread of the disease.
“If calling it off is the way to stop the spread of the virus then we have to do it. When you watch the TV you don’t know where it is going next.”
“We have a lot of African players here in the UK – and around in the world – if we can find a solution together to help the people we have to do it.
“You can’t go somewhere and put your life and the lives of all the people coming in at risk.
“I am worried because I have a lot of friends in the affected regions. Some people say: ‘Its only in Guinea, it’s not going to come to Cameroon’ but the truth is that people don’t have any information because the information does not go everywhere. So something has to be done to help.” DM
Photo: A South African fan cheers their team against Angola during their African Nations Cup Group A soccer match at the Moses Mabhida stadium in Durban, January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Rogan Ward