The South African government’s tourism board has conditionally approved plans to sponsor English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur amid an energy crisis, South African Tourism (SAT) announced in a statement on Thursday.
The controversial sponsorship deal, which is yet to be finalized, is reported to be around $58 million (R1 billion).
“We cannot carry on with business as usual, because it will not yield the desired results. This is why we are contemplating a partnership of this scale with Tottenham Hotspurs FC, to really help us shift the dial in our tourist arrivals,” SAT’s acting chief executive officer Themba Khumalo said in the statement.
“It is unfortunate that the information regarding the partnership was leaked ahead of time. We obtained conditional Board approval for the partnership on Tuesday, 31 January.”
“What is now left in the process is to consult our tourism sector stakeholders and national treasury, prior to finalizing anything,” Khumalo added.
SAT has defended the sponsorship by pointing to the government-mandated goal “to achieve 21 million international tourist arrivals by 2030.”
Addressing the media at a press conference on Thursday Khumalo told reporters: “This is not about football.”
“We are accessing the audience in the British Premier League. We are accessing it so that we can persuade them to travel to South Africa, spend pounds, euros, dollars, yen in our destination, and bring dignity back to our people,” he said.
Tottenham has declined to comment on the sponsorship deal.
South Africa’s ongoing power blackouts known locally as loadshedding, have resulted in President Cyril Ramaphosa considering declaring a national disaster, similar to one in 2020 at the height of the Covid pandemic, which had a devastating effect on the country’s economy.
The escalation of power outages is also deeply worrying for South Africa’s food security, driving up prices, and placing an even greater strain on stretched household budgets.
CNN’s Rebecca Trenner contributed to this report