It was two years ago when the Premier Soccer League was very rigid in their decision against allowing sponsorships from sports betting companies. They were so stiff that they prosecuted Cape Town City for signing with SportPesa. Now they have changed their tune.
The Initial Controversy
In 2017 Irvin Khoza, chairman of the PSL, made no secret about his anger towards Cape Town City for signing the SportPesa deal. He was verbal about the fact that his instructions were not followed and there followed legal action against the City with a prosecution process which is still not resolved. Further steps involved both John Comitis, owner of Cape Town City, as well as the club itself. They were being threatened with expulsion from the PSL as well as sanctions.
This was then followed up with another meeting to sit them down and reprimand them over their challenging behaviour. Comitis, however, decided to ignore the chairman’s threats and went ahead with his decision. He also concluded a deal with a Bulgarian-owned betting company who had involvement in Everton as well.
Comitis based his action on the fact a couple of years previously there was a request made by PSL that clubs aren’t allowed to close deals with sports betting companies until they have investigated the matter further. Since years have gone by and no investigation has yet happened, he went ahead. There was also nothing in the rule books which indicated that it is prohibited. Regardless of how angry Khoza was and how many threats were made, the club stuck to their decision.
The New Order in PSL Soccer Sponsorships
Now after realizing that they are going to lose out on money if they don’t allow sports betting companies to work with clubs on sponsorship deals, there has been a rather embarrassing turn of events on the PSL side. Slightly earlier this year Comitis advised the PSL that they will be missing out on revenue if they don’t follow the lead of all other leagues globally. This was at a stage where he was still in the process of arbitration following the action taken against him and the club in 2017. Now it seems that the prosecution slipped off the table and went quiet.
He further advised them that allowing sponsorships can bring a financial injection into the sport locally played and that it is beneficial to clubs and the competition to enable betting companies in on sponsorships. Since then the PSL Board of Governors has decided in early July, during a Johannesburg meeting, that clubs will now be allowed to deal with sports betting companies within limits. This time they explicitly stated that sponsorship is only allowed to be reflected on the player’s shirts. All sports betting activities are still prohibited. This is a step into a new future for PSL and could be a very lucrative option for clubs involved as well as being beneficial to local soccer.