/ 24 March 2023

Tottenham Hotspurs R1 billion tourism deal ‘invalid and unlawful’

Tottenham Hotspur V Everton Fc Premier League
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 06: General view inside the stadium during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Everton FC at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on July 06, 2020 in London, England. Football Stadiums around Europe remain empty due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in all fixtures being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille on Friday said the scrapped R1 billion sponsorship partnership between South Africa and English football side Tottenham Hotspur was “unlawful and invalid” and that the deal violated state agency SA Tourism’s supply-chain management processes.

At a media briefing, De Lille outlined the sequence of events that came to light in January when Daily Maverick reported how SA Tourism had worked towards sponsoring the well-known London team. 

The sequence of events around the deal included meetings in December between SA Tourism and Tottenham officials who, De Lille said, made a presentation to their South African counterparts before SA Tourism board members travelled to London in January for five days. 

Not only did the proposed deal violate SA Tourism’s supply-chain processes, but it was also unconstitutional and a violation of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), De Lille said.

“It appears that the sponsorship is a service which was proposed to be acquired by procurement through ‘sole source’. Sole source procurement is, however, only allowed where there is no competition in the market, and only one supplier is able to provide the goods or services, which does not appear to be the case here,” the minister said.

She added that any outlay on the Tottenham deal would have amounted to “irregular or unauthorised [expenditure] within the meaning of those terms in the PFMA”.

De Lille had also written to chairperson of the SA Tourism board, Thozamile Botha, as part of her inquiry into the contentious sponsorship deal, and the minister provided a response from Botha. 

Botha, in the letter to De Lille, said the board had an “in-principle” agreement with representatives from Tottenham, but that no deal had been signed with the English football team, which competes in that country’s elite men’s league. 

“Therefore, honourable minister, we humbly submit that factually, there is currently no ‘unlawful and invalid’ transaction, as the transaction does not exist. The legal advice recorded in the letter is premised on there being a legal and binding transaction, which is not the case, given that the requisite PFMA approvals have not yet been sought,” Botha wrote.

“Moreover, there is no Tottenham transaction to be cancelled as none has been concluded. What exists is an in-principle decision to commence the required processes

towards [the] conclusion of the transaction.”

De Lille said major sponsorship deals, such as the mooted Tottenham partnership, should be transparent in order for the government to be accountable to the South African public. 

“Based on the board chairperson’s interim response received this morning, 24 March 2023, my advice to the SA Tourism board is that the proposal may as well be stopped completely,” she said.