Fifa not a circus, says Blatter, as he hands over R560m

The World Cup was “not a circus”, Fifa president Sepp Blatter said at the launch of the 2010 Fifa World Cup Legacy Trust for South Africa on Monday.

Fifa did not come into a country, “putting up some tents, and then, when everything is over, taking ­everything away,” he said at the launch at Johannesburg’s Soccer City.

Comedy scriptwriters dream of this sort of stuff, especially when Blatter followed it with: “Money is not so important for us, to say how much we put here or there.”

This attempt at modesty by the president of the football world governing body that made an ­estimated $3,2-billion solely from sponsorship deals and television rights for the World Cup in South Africa came as Fifa announced that the trust will have a start-up budget of $80-million (R560-million).

The R560-million comes from profits on ticket sales during the World Cup, which amounted in total sales to R5,1-billion, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study of global sports, entitled Back on Track?, which was released in August.

The trust will cater for football development, education and humanitarian projects in South Africa.

South Africa’s outlay for the tournament, inclusive of infrastructure development, R665-million overtime paid to police during the tournament, and other additional expenditure, including marketing and government and parastatals purchasing match tickets, has been conservatively estimated at between R60-billion and R100-billion.

At the launch President Jacob Zuma declared that the tournament alone had contributed one percentage point to South Africa’s GDP. That, coupled with “very specific infrastructure development”, translated into “enormous” economic benefits for South Africa.

A slightly rose-tinted spin, commented Udesh Pillay, executive director of the Human Sciences Research Council and author of the book Development and Dreams: The Urban Legacy of the 2010 World Cup.

Pillay said that there was ­consensus among local economists, corroborated by research, suggesting that the impact on GDP was between 0,2% and 0,3% and the job creation impact of the World Cup had been overstated.

“The World Cup created between 150 000 and 200 000 jobs in the construction industry, which were mainly short term with no skills transfer,” he said.

“However, 0,2% is not insignificant when our economy has had 10 successive quarters of contraction,” he said.

According to Statistics South Africa formal employment in the construction sector dropped 10,9% in the first quarter of this year, compared with the same period in 2009.
The federation of builders, Master Builders South Africa (MBSA), attributed the job losses to “completion of construction projects in that period”—several of which were World Cup related.

However, MBSA president Jean Marie Talbot recently noted that the sector is “in crisis” and, forecasting further job losses in 2011, called for “an urgent building crisis summit” early next year.

Responding to Zuma’s suggestion that that the World Cup ushered in “a new era of Afro-optimism [that] has swept across the continent and the world”, Pillay said it was a ­“predictable” piece of spin.

“The intangible benefits were probably far larger than anything else — But there remains a level of antagonism over South Africa’s role on the continent and it would be ­difficult to quantify any real paradigm shift in this regard.”

World Cup local organising committee (LOC) chief executive Danny Jordaan confirmed that at its meeting on Monday the LOC board had approved the settling of a R90-million bill incurred when the police stepped in to fill the breach left by striking guards at several ­stadiums during the tournament.

Turning his attention to ­matters of football and the legacy of the World Cup, Jordaan said it was imperative to use the trust to “focus from the bottom up on development and building quality national teams [at age-group level] to ensure that Bafana Bafana is able to compete at the highest level”.

Noting the inability of Professional Soccer League clubs to translate the excitement around the World Cup into more supporters through ­turnstiles Jordaan emphasised that it was time for local clubs to be more imaginative in creating support bases.

“Obviously fans want to watch good football, but clubs need to look at building up databases of supporters and reach out to them in new ways, including using exciting new social media initiatives,” said Jordaan.

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi

Niren Tolsi is a freelance journalist.His areas of interest include social justice; citizen mobilisation and state violence; protest; the constitution and the constitutional court and football. Read more from Niren Tolsi

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