Athletics SA loses road-running sponsor

Athletics South Africa (ASA) plunged further into turmoil on Thursday when Nedbank pulled its sponsorship of the annual Matha Series races, the backbone of road running in the country.

The bank sponsors 10 races on the ASA calendar—which incorporate the national marathon, half-marathon and 10km championships—and has played a massive role in raising the profile of the sport in South Africa.

But with ASA boss Leonard Chuene and the rest of the board in hot water over their handling of the Caster Semenya gender controversy, the bank has opted to distance itself from the federation.

Nedbank said in a statement that it had terminated the five-year sponsorship deal a year early “in agreement” with ASA.

The sponsorship deals will stand for the last two remaining races this season—the Matha Series half-marathon in Polokwane on Saturday and the Soweto marathon on November 1—but next year ASA will need to find a replacement, which is likely to be a difficult task considering the problems with which the federation is currently faced.

“Nedbank’s dissatisfaction with the quality of delivery by ASA of some events in the City Marathon and Matha Series over the past years is well known and the negotiations to end the contract had commenced well before the start of the current controversy surrounding ASA,” the bank said in a statement.

“The decision for an early termination was further compounded by the disrupted sporting calendar and logistical challenges facing South Africa during 2010.

“Nedbank takes great pride in the delivery and quality of its selected sponsorship properties and felt that the unfortunate negative situation that ASA has recently placed itself in could result in substantial reputational risk on the Nedbank brand. It is inappropriate for us as sponsors to continue with our partnership with ASA in the current climate.

“We will monitor the situation closely though for the time being all talks of Nedbank’s continued support of road running through ASA beyond 2009 have been suspended.”

Andy Scott, head of Nedbank Group Sponsorships, said the bank would, however, continue to support road running in South Africa through the Nedbank Running Club, which has produced some of the country’s leading athletes since its inception in 2007.

“As a bank that strives to be highly involved in the communities in which we operate Nedbank remains committed to road running at large in South Africa,” said Scott.—Sapa

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