The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda , Senior Sports Reporter
WHILE big footballs clubs especially in Europe are generating huge revenue from kit sponsorship deals, it is not the same for local teams.
Great clubs in Europe actually get paid by kit manufacturers for donning their brands while most local teams buy their playing kits directly from suppliers, mostly in neighbouring South Africa.
Highlanders chief executive officer, Nhlanhla Dube shed light on the challenges local clubs face in trying to generate revenue from kit sponsorship deals. According to Dube, the biggest impediment that local clubs encounter is that of coming up with the necessary funding to start the kit sponsorship deal.
“What you need to put down as a payment to kick off the technical sponsorship in our environment right now is very limiting, we don’t have local manufacturers of kit, we are not awash with foreign currency,” Dube said.
Just to highlight how difficult it is for local clubs, Highlanders were even forced to sell the replica shirts sourced by their previous sponsors, BancABC at below the cost because they were not being bought at the USD$50 price.
“You will look at the example of the Adidas replicas that we were selling at $50, we had to drop them because they were not moving, we had 5 000 or so. We first sold them at cost and then below cost to clear them out.”
Dube feels that the local clubs cannot be removed from the economic setting in which they are operating.
“It’s an issue of where we are in the economy, we don’t earn US dollars but we have to bring apparel in foreign currency. You have to sell them at a price continuously changing to be able to meet a resupply reality.”
His experiences with kit sponsorship deals are that a club gets certain items against the number of replica shirts that they would have purchased from a manufacturer.
“There are outlets in South Africa, I won’t name them by name, its standard the way these things work, you get your training kit, your bibs, your balls, maybe even nets depending on how much replicas you have bought. You have a whole range of apparel, playing kit, tracksuits, traveling kit, caps, slopes and then you have to put down an x amount in replicas. So, you only get that against paying for replicas so technically you are not paying for kit but obviously you are paying for it,’’ Dube said.
He is optimistic that the situation will not remain the same for local clubs and they would one day get to realise proceeds from kit sponsorship deals.
“I would not like to think that we will remain unable to generate hard currency, we will obviously continue trying to create partnerships and ways of generating hard currency. It will not remain a pipe dream, it’s only a question of the space and time we are in.”
Another local club official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the replica shirts have become a luxury for most of their fans who are now more concerned about the cost of living. Local clubs procure in foreign currency and have to be sold in a way that the cost can be recovered.
“The replica deals have genuine replica jerseys so if people are used to buying the cheaper quality ones it’s difficult to push those volumes. Selling replicas is also based on how well the team is doing so when your team is not doing well its difficult to sell replica shirts,’’ the official said.
FC Platinum public relations officer Chido Chizondo indicated that as a club they purchase their kit directly from the manufacturers since sponsorship deals are linked to replica shirts.
“Kit sponsorship is based on ability to sell replicas and the prevailing economic situation will not allow for that so we purchase our own jerseys,” Chizondo said.
A major brand distributor with an international supplier said the biggest challenge he has faced in his dealings with local football clubs, is that it’s really difficult for them to benefit from kit sponsorships because they love to do shortcuts. He has also noted that local clubs do not plan in advance like what happens in other countries.
“You come up with a plan, a business model and someone within the club would try and replicate what you are doing. The buy into the business deal is just too high, they are comparing themselves to Liverpool or Manchester United or Mamelodi Sundowns yet we definitely have the fan base but the selling of replicas in this environment is difficult,’’ he said.
He is of also of the view that local clubs can try to build on long term partnerships that can benefit them in the long run.
“Sometimes its better to get a strong brand, buy the kit and then build the replica business thereafter instead of getting clubs to commit to 20 000 or
30 000 replicas to get a free kit.”
Even more upsetting for the distributor is that local clubs, in a situation where they would pay less when ordering the kit through him but they decide to go to South Africa to buy it at a much higher cost.
“What’s more frustrating is that pricing through the distributor is cheaper than the guys going to South Africa to buy the kit. They are bringing their own brands down by not tying in with strong brands,’’ said the distributor.
While the biggest footballs clubs in the world are hugely benefiting from kit sponsorships deals, the local ones will continue not profiting until they put their houses in order or the economy improves, whatever will come first.