JOHANNESBURG – Free State Stars’ general manager Rantsi Mokoena hit out at corporate South Africa for what he called “political reasons” for them not sponsoring football clubs in the country like they do in rugby and cricket.
Ea Lla Koto and Maritzburg United, two of the most exciting teams in the league this season who will appear in the Nedbank Cup final, are among a number of clubs in the Premier Division who don’t have sponsors. Stars struggled financially after Bonitas didn’t renew their sponsorship at the end of the 2015/16 season.
The club was even put up for sale but its’ purchase fell through and the Mokoenas had to continue financing Stars with money from the family business.
“I am not sure if I want to have this conversation in front of the cameras,” Mokoena said. “It baffles me. I really don’t understand how football being football in this country, consumed by the majority of the population, yet you have so many clubs in the PSL without sponsors.
If I must compare with other sporting codes, and not to undermine those codes, but there are some cricket teams that I don’t even know what they are called but they are well-sponsored. I doubt that they are doing anything different to what we are doing, except for perhaps that the economy is in different hands. Like I said, I don’t really want to get into this conversation because it may get very political.”
Mokoena further explained what he meant when he said that the poor sponsorship in football is “political”.
“We simply don’t have enough representation in the boardroom as black people,” Mokoena said.
“Football is seen to be a black sport, or consumed by the majority of South Africa’s population which is black. When you drive past a ‘white school’ you’d find that it has five different boards of five different companies sponsoring the school.
But if you go to a school in the township, it has zero. Like I said, it’s really a politically view and it goes deeper than that. But today is about the Nedbank Cup, let’s talk about that.”
Stars, through the help of the Free State government, will send 15 buses full of fans to Cape Town for the Nedbank Cup final at Cape Town Stadium against the Team of Choice on Saturday. The winner of that match will not only get a cool R7-million cheque but will also represent the country in the Caf Confederation Cup next season.
Participating in that competition is a financially straining exercise that has been made more manageable through the increase in prize money.
“It’s a privilege and honour to compete at that stage,” Mokoena said. “We would also like to give it a shot. Should we win and play in the Confederation Cup, only then can we give a comprehensive report on what it’s like and would we want to do it again.
From a club a point of view, elevating the status of the club, it would be good to compete in the continent. People refer to us as a small team. If we want to get out of that mould of being a small team, you need to elevate yourself, you need to be competing in cup finals and be on the African stage.
It’s the club’s ambition to grow, and if this is a part of our growth certainly we would love to participate.”