Sport

Khoza pal in World Cup row

Phatisani Moyo

A ticketing dispute between Safa and a local tour operator has broader-reaching implications. Phathisani Moyo reports,

A bruising battle over the sale of World Cup packages is brewing between the South Africa Football Association (Safa) and a company called Fli-Afrika Travel, which is owned by a friend of Irvin Khoza, Nazeer Camaroodien.

According to Safa chief executive Leslie Sedibe, at the centre of the dispute is an allegation by Fli-Afrika that it entered into an agreement with Safa that compels the football mother body to buy tickets on behalf of the tour operator from Fifa.

Fli-Afrika wants to include the tickets in the tour packages it sells to visitors to the country during the World Cup.

“I have not seen this agreement and have since written to Fli-Afrika, requesting them to produce this contract that compels us to buy tickets on their behalf. Their director, Nazeer, is out of the country at the moment, but we will be meeting with him next week,” said Sedibe.

The new Safa executive, headed by Kirsten Nematandani, is not happy with the deal, said to have been signed by the previous leadership of Molefi Oliphant and former chief executive officer Raymond Hack with the sports tour operator.

Former Safa president Oliphant has been accused of being controlled by Khoza during his reign, while Hack enjoyed a cordial relationship with the local organising committee chairman. Hack has since resigned from Safa.

“We have a dispute with this contract, if it exists,” Safa’s vice-president, Chief Mwelo Nonkonyana, told the Mail & Guardian this week.

“As I speak, we are exchanging letters with the company in the hope of getting answers and evidence. We have made it clear that the grey areas must be clarified before we can give them the guarantee they seek to be a Fifa-accredited operator during the World Cup.”

He said: “Safa has the power to reverse this decision and we will allocate them the guarantee [to buy tickets from Fifa] only when we see fit and are satisfied that are our queries have been answered.”

But Nonkonyana conceded that the Safa position has not been well received by Camaroodien. “He has threatened to sue the football mother body if we choose to reverse the deal.”

When the M&G contacted him for comment, Camaroodien denied that there is a dispute and said he has a binding contract with Safa.

“I am not aware of any dispute or plans to reverse the agreement we signed with Safa. There is a deal in place. We are already in the process of selling World Cup packages that include match tickets, accommodation, airfares and transfers,” said the Fli-Afrika director.

The M&G has established that Fli-Afrika opening-match packages, including accommodation and transfers, are being sold for R10 076 for five nights a person sharing. Football fans have to fork out an extra $264 (R1 937) for match tickets. Other matches cost less, with tickets priced at $106.

Packages for the quarterfinals are pegged at R11 161 for six nights, with tickets priced at an additional $198. Packages for the semifinals and final cost R15 865 for seven nights, whereas attending a semifinal will cost $330 and a ticket to Soccer City for the final is $528. The average ticket price for the World Cup is $139.

In one of the testimonials posted on the Fli-Afrika website, Hack gives Fli-Afrika a glowing tribute for the services it renders to Safa.

Camaroodien, who confirmed he is the sole director of the company, denied that there is anything untoward about the activities of Fli-Afrika. “You can do a company check on us; it will indicate that I am the only director. I challenge anybody that says Dr Khoza or anybody has a stake in my company to put it in writing, as it is based on false assumptions,” said Camaroodien.

Fli-Afrika’s business relationship with Safa dates back many years, with the company being responsible for Bafana Bafana’s travel arrangements, something that has irked Nonkonyana. “I don’t believe Safa should be financiers of a company that is supposed to generate finance for us.”

Safa’s dispute with Fli-Afrika is not new. In 2006 City Press reported that local organising committee chairman Khoza and his chief executive, Danny Jordaan, had nearly come to blows over a R100-million Safa travel tender that Fli-Afrika had lost.

“The confrontation was precipitated when a travel tender to handle all LOC-related [local organising committee] travel and accommodation, estimated at more than R100-million, was not awarded to a company owned by a friend of Khoza’s. It was awarded to Connex Travel,” the newspaper reported.

The media has been awash with reports about a possible Khoza fightback after the World Cup, and this gained credence last weekend when two newspapers claimed the PSL chairman was planning a coup.

Khoza quickly called a press conference on Tuesday to quash the allegations. “The coordinated Sunday newspapers’ assertions quoting nonexistent meetings to plot a nonexistent coup [by me] are not only false, but maliciously peddled by those that clearly do not want to put the World Cup first,” said Khoza.

Safa held its own press conference and vowed to investigate the person behind allegations that the LOC chairman planned to dethrone Nematandani.

The Mail & Guardian was unable to reach Khoza for comment by the time of going to press.

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