Swimming South Africa Could Lose Major Sponsor Before London 2012

February 17, 2012

Swimming South Africa (SSA) could be in financial difficulty as it runs the risk of losing its principal sponsorship months before the start of the London Olympic Games in July.

SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Gideon Sam on Thursday said Telkom, which is the financial backer to SSA, might cancel its sponsorship with the swimming governing body.

“They are not sure where they stand, Telkom said ‘we are not going to continue’,” said Sam.

“I spoke to Jace (Naidoo, SSA president) on Monday and they have been there and are re-looking their position.”

Swimming has in the past been one of South Africa’s most successful federations at the Olympic Games,.

World Championship 100m breaststroke bronze medallist Cameron van der Burgh is one of the country’s greatest medal hopefuls.

Naidoo confirmed that SSA were in negotiations with Telkom while funding from the National Lottery Fund comes to an end in March.

“Our sponsorship with Telkom was until the end of 2012, we are currently in negotiations with them,” Naidoo said.

“We had a meeting last week, and again yesterday (Wednesday), and on Friday.

“They are relooking our sponsorship going forward and we are hopeful that they would continue to be partners with us especially because it is an Olympic year.”

Naidoo said Telkom has not cancelled its involvement with the sport as yet.

“They are keen, they haven’t said no outright,” he said.

“They have to go through all their governance structures and there has been a lot of support from various stakeholders in terms of trying to encourage them to continue being part of swimming.

“We understand they are going through a tough time financially as an organisation but we are confident that swimming will do not just South Africa proud but the people who are associated with us too.”

He said the telecommunications group has in recent years come under financial pressure which forced it to adjust its sponsorship from a three-year cycle to an annual one.

“Similarly with the lotto fund we wanted it for a four-year cycle but it was a three-year cycle which comes to an end in March this year,” said Naidoo.

“We are also speaking to a number of other organisations and we are quietly confident that people will see what swimming has delivered over the years and are willing to come on board and support us going further.”

The funding did not solely go towards Olympic Games preparations but was crucial to a number of other projects and events such as World Championships, Common Wealth Games and youth squads.

“Swimming is a long slog, it is an eight year thing, so the team for 2016 we have already selected last year and it is about making sure those swimmers are going to these competitions,” Naidoo said.

“We have a number of plans for them to go forward; we have camps scheduled for the junior squads, so if we don’t have the support it is those programmes that suffer.”

Naidoo said they were still on track despite the financial difficulties in terms of producing competitive swimmers for the Olympic Games.

“In terms of swimmers who have made the A qualifying times we’ve got 11 individual qualifiers, the 4×100 relay has already qualified in terms of the Olympic rules,” he said.

“We’ve never had so many people making the A-qualifying times so early, we are confident but we also know that making the time does not convert into a medal.

“We only have a few swimmers that are in the top eight currently, and even the top eight does not guarantee a medal in some of the races.”

by Ismail Uddin