PSL considers legal options amid sponsorship war of words with SAFA
South Africa’s Premier Soccer League is threatening legal action against the sport’s national governing body over a recent sponsorship deal for match officials, which it is claimed “infringes on the rights” of the league’s existing partners.
On Tuesday of last week, the South African Football Association unveiled a five-year deal, valued at R50 million, ($3.5 million), for OUTsurance, a leading domestic insurance company, to have branding on the kit of officials across the sport, including in the top-tier Absa Premiership.
However, the PSL alleges that the deal conflicts with the rights held by its top sponsors Absa and Nedbank, and the matter was discussed at a meeting of the board of governors of the National Soccer League, a stakeholder body, on Thursday.
In a statement today, it said: “The NSL is of the view that the sponsorship infringes on the rights of NSL sponsors. The Board of Governors mandated the Executive Committee to seek legal advice on the matter and to take all steps as may be necessary to resolve the matter.”
SAFA has already dismissed the claim, describing it as “absurd and nonsensical.”
The dispute comes amid an apparent power struggle between SAFA and the PSL, with Irvin Khoza (pictured), the league’s chairman, yesterday hitting out at the stance taken by the governing body, especially regarding a press release the latter sent out last Friday.
He told reporters: “What could happen is that our sponsors Absa and our cup competition sponsors MTN and Telkom could say that their product is being devalued and pull out, and we also open ourselves up for ambush marketing.”
In its release last week, SAFA sought to exert its authority to conclude national sponsorship deals, saying that it “as the Member Association of FIFA is responsible for organising and supervising football in all of its forms in SA [South Africa]. In other words Safa is the custodian of football in SA.”
It added: “On the contrary, it is not the NSL that runs and controls football in our country and that Safa is subordinate to the NSL. THIS MUST BE MADE ABSOLUTELY CLEAR.”
On the sponsorship deal, SAFA stressed that it was linked to its function in appointing officials for matches in South Africa, and, in a barb at the PSL, said: “We understand that the league appears to be complaining that the rights of OUTsurance are in conflict with the rights of Nedbank and Absa who are sponsors of the league. This is absurd and nonsensical, to say the least."
Khoza was upset at the tone and timing of the release, saying yesterday: “For all the years that I have been involved with football I have never read a statement from SAFA written in that manner. When SAFA released that statement, we were still busy with a meeting, which was very unfortunate.”
It has been a turbulent few months for the PSL, which faced the prospect of having to delay the start of the 2018-19 season because of legal action by demoted Ajax Cape Town.
The club challenged a PSL arbitration verdict from last season in which it was stripped of points gained in three matches after it fielded an ineligible player, meaning that it finished bottom and was relegated to the National First Division.
The situation was complicated by a ruling from a judge overturning the sanction pending a review by Fifa’s player status committee.
However, in the event, Ajax Cape Town withdrew their court interdict to delay the start of the PSL campaign, which got under way as scheduled in early August.