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SA Tourism conditionally approves R1 billion Tottenham Hotspur sponsorship – but nothing signed yet



South Africa’s tourism agency gave preliminary approval to a sponsorship deal with English football club Tottenham Hotspur and government officials are being consulted on whether it should be finalized.

Discussions were ongoing when details were prematurely leaked to the media, according to Themba Khumalo, South African Tourism’s acting chief executive officer. He declined to comment on the details or value of the deal, which the Daily Maverick news website said could be worth about R1 billion.

Tottenham, whose star players include England captain Harry Kane and French World Cup winner Hugo Lloris, declined to comment.

Tourism generates about 3% of South Africa’s gross domestic product, down from 6.4% before the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government aims to grow the industry to shore up an economy that’s being battered by record power cuts.

The tourism agency aims to tap the English team’s global fan base to help meet a target of more than treble visitor numbers to 21 million visitors by 2030.

Global Audience

That strategy has also been adopted by Rwanda, which sponsors Arsenal, and Mauritius, which has a deal with Liverpool.

Tottenham doesn’t have a tourism partner, and it is estimated that a tie-up could enable South Africa to be marketed to an audience of 661 million people, according to Khumalo.

“If you get 1% of people to travel here, that gives you an additional 6 million travellers,” he told reporters in Johannesburg on Thursday. “The deal that we are looking at has nothing to do with football, it’s got to do we accessing the aggregating audiences that football brings. When you do a deal at this scale it commands the attention of the world.”

The possibility of taxpayer funds being used to sponsor a foreign football team has encountered opposition, with critics arguing that the money could be better spent tackling rampant poverty or the nation’s energy crisis.

“This envisaged deal is not asking the fiscus to introduce new money into our budget,” Khumalo said. “It makes sense commercially,” but no agreement has been signed, and it will be discussed further with the tourism minister and department and the National Treasury, he said.

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