The tourism industry is astounded that the City of Cape Town has fouled up its opportunity to generate revenue during the 29th Africa Cup of Nations championships (AFCON), which will be hosted in our country between January and February next year.  The winners of the Championships qualify for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Last week the soccer stadia hosting the 32 matches for the Championships were announced, Soccer City in Johannesburg hosting the opening and closing ceremonies and matches.  The other matches will be played at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, Nelson Mandela Stadium in Port Elizabeth, Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, and Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. Cape Town Stadium is conspicuous by its absence, the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee member for Tourism, Events, and Marketing, Grant Pascoe, once again showing what a burden he is to the city’s tourism industry!  The city had expressed its opposition to hosting the event, due to the cost burden, and sought a guarantee from the government for at least 50% of the hosting costs to be covered.  The City was also looking to the Confederation of African Football and/or Local Organising Committee to cover 25 % of the costs.  Costs for the host city include the preparation of the pitch, fencing, security, the accommodation of the teams and officials, as well as transport plans, according to the Cape Argus. The City also was unhappy that the event would mean that other events could not be held at the Cape Town Stadium, meaning a loss of income, a poor motivation, given how few events are held at the stadium, less than one per month on average! However, four events have been booked for the mid-January to mid-February period next year, it is reported. In addition, the City of Cape Town’s new Executive Director of Tourism, Events and Marketing, Anton Groenewald, and reporting to Councillor Pascoe, naively expressed the concern of the public liability of the players in case of an accident, something every event organiser is insured for!  The City accused the organisers of ‘bully tactics’ and that it was being held to ‘ransom‘!  The City did not present the approval for funding to its full Council meeting, the deadline date for the bid having preceded the Council meeting date at the end of April.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) agreement placed the financial burden solely on the bidding cities. The Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula said that the cost of hosting the matches would be funded by the government, private enterprise, and the Confederation of African Football.

Even more astounding is the city’s decision, given that Councillor Pascoe’s portfolio includes the Cape Town Stadium, which is running at a significant loss, the City not having been able to find an operator to generate an income from the stadium other than a few local soccer matches, religious gatherings, and pop concerts! Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille prepared a statement in reaction to the Host City announcement, as published in Politicsweb: “The City of Cape Town notes with deep disappointment the decision not to include Cape Town as a host city for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2013. From the outset, the City expressed the desire to be part of what we truly believe is a celebration of African football. However, at each stage of the process, we have highlighted a number of serious legal, financial and other concerns that needed to be negotiated in order for the City to comply with our legal responsibilities and to ensure that we do not compromise the interests of the ratepayers and citizens of Cape Town”. The Mayor added that the City’s concerns had not been responded to, and that it had to hear via media reports that it had not been successful in its bid.  She also reiterated the City’s commitment to hosting ‘high profile national, regional and international football matches’, and intimated that a ‘high profile football tournament’ would be hosted next month, rather short notice one would think, given that it is a month away and has not been finalised nor announced!

Johannesburg had also balked at the cost of hosting the event, and therefore its involvement has been reduced to the first and last day of the Championships, the government stepping in to help bear some of the costs.  One wonders why the government did not help Cape Town with its concerns about the cost of the event, and whether politics led to the DA-led City of Cape Town having been excluded, or whether it is a reflection of the poor negotiation skills of Councillor Pascoe. We would assume it is the latter, given Mayor de Lille’s complaint that the City did not receive any written response to its concerns!  This is reinforced by the statement of Mvuzo Mbebe, the AFCON 2013 CEO, in which he questioned why the City of Cape Town was communicating with his organisation via the media instead of with him directly!

Libya had originally won the bid to host the African Cup of Nations 2013, but the political turmoil in the country led to the event being moved to South Africa two years ago.

The Cape Chamber of Commerce does not usually receive our support, due to its communication gaffes, but the association supported an AFCON bid by Cape Town, stating that the cost involved was worth the price tag, reported the Sunday Argus.  Its President Michael Bagraim said last month: “The costs of the tournament are unknown at this stage, and the city will almost certainly take an initial loss. But the Afcon could open up many other venue (sic) streams in the long term”.  The benefits for the tourism, transport and accommodation sectors were clear, he said (perhaps not understanding that the accommodation industry is part of the tourism sector!). Bagraim added that the event would have the economic benefit of a Two Oceans Marathon or a Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycle Tour, being good examples of event tourism, which the tourism industry recognises the valuable impact of.  A further tourism benefit was that the event would have created exposure for Cape Town in Africa, sorely needed to reduce the burden on the traditional European source markets. The Chamber expressed its disappointment that Cape Town had not been included as a host city, after the announcement last week.  Oddly, the tourism industry has not spoken out against the City of Cape Town’s handling of the AFCON bid.

COSATU provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich was quick to make political capital out of the AFCON bid debacle, and for once we must agree with him, saying that the bid problems were similar to those of the Saracens versus Biarritz Heineken Cup match, which cost the city dearly when the match scheduled to be held in Cape Town in January this year was moved to another country, due to the City of Cape Town’s inability to make a decision about whether to host the event at Newlands or at Cape Town Stadium. Ehrenreich has threatened to take the City of Cape Town, of which he is an (ANC) Councillor, to the Equality Court over the AFCON bid!

We have previously questioned Councillor Pascoe’s ability to manage his portfolio of Tourism, Events, and Marketing, and ask how the performance, or lack of in the case of Councillor Pascoe, is evaluated, and how much more damage the Councillor will cause before any action is taken against him and he be removed from this position!  Councillor Pascoe has no business experience, and it is showing!  What is interesting is that Mayor de Lille motivates her administration’s decision on the basis of her care for ratepayers and the citizens of Cape Town – the former were not consulted in preparation for the 2010 World Cup involvement, creating a long term rates burden for its ratepayers. Capetonians were also not consulted about AFCON.  Many of the residents of Cape Town would welcome a big soccer event in the city, given the beneficial bonding the soccer event created two years ago.  The estimated cost that the City of Cape Town was protesting about was R27 million, which was expected to grow to R40 million or more, reported Southern African Tourism Update.  This figure is less than the City’s annual budget spent on Cape Town Tourism, and may be a far better investment in tourism than the predominant Tweet-Marketing done by the tourism body!

The AFCON booby prize goes to Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Polokwane, and Kimberley, in hosting the 2014 African Nations Championships (CHAN), it has been announced.  No dates have been announced for the Championships in 2014, and one wonders if the City of Cape Town will blow the whistle on this event too!

POSTSCRIPT 7/5: The Cape Times today has a lead story entitled “City slams Safa over soccer Cup snub”, writing that Councillor Grant Pascoe is blaming SAFA for treating the City as ‘palookas’, shocking that a Councillor in general, and the one heading up Tourism, Events, and Marketing, could use such unprofessional language. The article also quotes Safa as stating that ‘the losers will always cry foul’!  SAFA stated that the four soccer stadia were chosen in cities that ‘are winners’, a terrible criticism of Cape Town, by default!  The 2014 CHAN games are described as B team matches, an even worse slap for Cape Town.

POSTSCRIPT 7/5: The Cape Argus this evening reports that the City of Cape Town has four events booked for the Cape Town Stadium for January/February 2013, which it would have had to cancel had it been an AFCON host city. The events include an international pop concert, an international rugby match, and two film shoots.

POSTSCRIPT 14/5: In his Cape Argus column, Mike Wills last week both praised the City of Cape Town for its financial fiduciary concerns, and slammed it for its ‘tonality of the approach’, in spending too much time in telling SAFA what to do!  He concluded that the end result, other than a tourism loss and an empty Fan Walk, is the entrenchment of the Cape Town stereotype of ‘Cape Town Hates Soccer’, expanded into ‘Cape Town Hate Things That Black People Like’!

POSTSCRIPT 18/6: The Times has reported that the African Cup of Nations will cost R400 million to host next year, including R20 million to accommodate the VIPs, and R25 million for marketing.  The cost to the four host cities collectively will be R90 million.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage