PSL tills ring with moolah

The worst Premier Soccer League (PSL) side will, at the end of this season, have made at least R12,7-million in revenue. And if one club were to be dominant and win all the trophies on offer, it would bank at least R32-million — and that is excluding revenue from sponsors and gate takings.

It is no great wonder that Soweto’s pioneer capitalist and former racehorse owner, Richard Maponya, thinks that if he could rewind the clock he would have dealt with footballers rather than jockeys.

Banking group Nedcor this week announced the prize money for the Nedbank Cup, adding further fuel to the momentum the league has been enjoying in its most profitable year.

Owning a PSL club has become the latter-day version of owning a racehorse. It is not just about the prestige — it makes perfect business sense.

The PSL teams receive a total monthly grant of R1-million. Kaizer Chiefs took home R4,25-million for beating Mamelodi Sundowns in the Telkom Cup final. The winners of the Absa premiership will pocket R10-million, while the team that takes the wooden spoon will take R400 000 to the lower league.

”Back in the day I used to make a lot of money with horses. If a horse was good and was winning races I could easily make R500 000 on one horse. But if I were to own a PSL team and manage it very well, I can make more money,” said Maponya.

The commercial attractiveness of owning a top-flight club has increased substantially since the PSL was founded in 1996.

Peter Mencer, head of PSL marketing, said that since the PSL brand was redeveloped and relaunched in 2003, blue chip companies are queueing up to sponsor the league and its clubs.

”Nedbank, which has been sitting on the fringes of local football in order to reposition the bank in the local market, jumped at the opportunity when a property like the PSL Cup became available,” said Mencer.

”Now that the majority of the 293 league and cup competition matches are being televised on SABC and Supersport, it makes commercial sense for sponsors to want to get involved with local football — to look at the teams that are not sponsored at the moment as a viable sponsorship opportunity in the exciting world of local professional football. Big companies are willing to sponsor teams but not to own them.”

Steven Kapeluschnik of Stellar Africa, a company that manages about 70 players, sees the sponsorship deals as an improvement on the past. ”But this doesn’t mean that the players we manage don’t want to play overseas anymore. The money the clubs are getting might be more but when you negotiate for players you would be told that the money will go towards development,” said Kapeluschnik.

For some — like Ria Ledwaba, who with business partner Sello ”Chicco” Twala sold Ria Stars for R8-million in 2002 — the bounty has come too late. ”Back then, running a team was not easy at all because of all the expenses and the small monthly grant which we received then. If you don’t have a technical sponsor it means that you have to buy your players the playing and practice kits, which is expensive. Things were tough then. I was working for the players and, at the end, it didn’t add any value to my life,” said Ledwaba.

Twala once told the Mail & Guardian that the club’s overheads at the time of its closure amounted to between R600 000 and R700 000 a month, while income was the monthly grant of R250 000 plus whatever gate takings they made.

As the Nedbank sponsorship details showed this week, things have changed, the Nedbank cup winners will pocket R6-million.

For Ledwaba, the continuing ringing of tills gives hope for those teams, like hers, that have struggled to secure sponsors. ”I would never have sold my team [had things been the way they are now]. Even teams without sponsors are going to make money because of the increase in the league’s prize money, the monthly grants and the lucrative cup competitions.”

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