His Majesty King Mswati III last week launched a landmark football sponsorship worth E9 million to be played for over three years by 32 teams in the country.
The sponsorship also covers a culture component as it hopes to instil the respect of Swazi cultural norms.
The groundbreaking sponsorship was made possible by the Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accident Fund (SMVAF).
The launch took place at the Lozitha Palace. The tournament will be known as SMVAF Ingwenyama Cup.
The launch was to be followed by a huge backlash with certain sections of society condemning MVA for pumping in huge amounts of money into football at a time when the country was faced with the dreaded drought.
First to throw a salvo was outspoken businessman Walter Bennett who felt E9 million was too much for football. He contended that the money could have been spent elsewhere. Members of parliament, in particular those serving in the ministry of finance portfolio committee, have joined the bandwagon calling upon the minister to do something.
They too, feel that E9 million is too big for a football tournament and are of the view that the money could have been used somewhere else like the drought.
Other MPs felt MVA has not satisfactory paid out compensations to road accident victims yet it had the audacity to splash out so much for a football tournament.
The minister is yet to respond to the concerns of the MPs. The Observer on Saturday approached MVA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Helmon Vilakati for a low down on the now controversial tournament.
Vilakati holds a different view and believes that the tournament will go a long way in assisting his organisation achieve its mandatory goal- that of arresting the escalating number of road accidents.
Apart from that, Vilakati is convinced that the tournament would change Swazis’ lives for the better be it in the sports sector or social aspect of their lives.
The CEO further explains that MVA broke no law by venturing into sports as they were guided by the Public Enterprises Act. He said they decided on the sponsorship after the Premier League of Swaziland (PLS) chaired by Victor Gamedze made a proposal.
He said they were happy to involve themselves after realising how the tournament itself and its proceeds would change the lives of many Swazis across the country.
Vilakati appealed to critics not to look at the money availed for the sponsorship but rather the benefits or fruits to be reaped from the whole initiative.
“Investment in the SMVAF Ingwenyama Cup would enable the fund to reduce the number and quantum of claims emanating from road traffic accidents over time. It is safe to align the benefit of the investment with the Decade of Action for Road safety target,” he said.
Giving clarity on the Decade of Action for Road safety target, Vilakati said; “The World Health Organisation’s Decade of Action for Road safety, to which Swaziland is a signatory, targets to reduce road accidents by 50 percent by the year 2020. This target is a universal barometer by which all road safety interventions should be measured and this endeavour is no exception”.
Vilakati emphasised that the cost of undertaking the SMVAF Ingwenyama Cup seems to outweigh the benefits.
“This is to be expected as the business of the SMVAF is to settle claims anyway,” he stressed.
The questions and answers;
Q; How did the tournament come about?
Answer; Sincephetelo Motor Vehicle Accident Fund received a proposal from the Premier League of Swaziland (PLS) for sponsorship of a football tournament to be known as Ingwenyama Cup.
The PLS made a strong case of persuading us to invest in a marketing campaign that will use football as a vehicle.
We carefully weighed the pros and cons of this initiative, and having studied the fortunes of other corporate brands who have made similar investments such as SwaziBank, MTN Swaziland, SPTC to name a few, we are without doubt that football offers a captive audience for any structured marketing campaign.
Q: Critics say the decision to host the tournament was irrational particularly when looking at the cost?
Answer: We hold a different view as ours is a long term plan. We anticipate that investment returns will far outweigh the initial cost or investment. We are confident that this investment will pay off in future.
Q: What did you have in mind when you agreed to the sponsorship request from the PLS?
Answer: We note that despite sizeable sponsorship investment, the standard of the game has not improved. We are convinced that this is the area where Sincephetelo MVA Fund would have to make a difference. If we are to make our involvement unique, meaningful and worth the King’s name, we must impact the standard of the game by investing in the development of the people who play and patronise the sport.
Q: What is your statement of Intent?
Answer: It is in our best interest to stage a football tournament that would impact and change Swazi football for the better and make the sport attractive to as many young people as possible to keep them away from drugs and other social ills. This way the tournament will instil a sense of community pride and good sportsmanship. We are convinced that if you take drugs out of the equation, the battle to reduce road traffic deaths will have begun in earnest. After all, drugs, particularly alcohol, are among the leading causes of road traffic accidents.
We believe that this vehicle will enable SMVAF to build strong brand loyalties in the mind of the general populace and acceptance of what contemporary SMVAF stands for.
Q: What do you hope to achieve?
In doing justice to this question, we had to ponder our separate aspirations before we could decide if there were commonalities at all.
Sincephetelo MVA Fund is primarily looking for a promotional vehicle that it could use effectively at reasonable cost and within a reasonable time frame to raise awareness of its services, road safety and effectively reduce road accidents. To do this, SMVAF needs a captive audience for meaningful and targeted messaging.
The Premier League of Swaziland wants to improve the standard of the game in the country by raising the level of competition to attract a large spectatorship and impact the economies of the clubs at elite level (Premier League, First Division and Super League). To achieve this, the PLS must attract and secure sponsors who will invest money in the game. Clearly the parties’ common interest is the number of people who play and patronise the sport.
Q: What are the objectives of the SMVAF Ingwenyama Cup in a nutshell?
Answer: The objectives of the SMVAF Ingwenyama Cup are as follows:
n To create more awareness on services offered and what Sincephetelo MVA Fund stands for.
n To create a positive image of Sincephetelo MVA Fund on the minds of the populace.
n Get more young people to play the game and stay away from drugs.
n Promote road safety to the thousands of captive audience who patronise the game (in their language).
n Improve the standard of the game; thus improve its attractiveness.
n Create role models who live positive values and have a clean profile; and inspire the youth.
n Make the sport of football attractive and meaningful to traditional structures.
The need category
Football is Swaziland’s most popular sport that is played by about 40 000 (plus/minus) and watched and followed by hundreds of thousands countrywide.
It has proven to have a ‘positive addictive’ effect among the youth that, at its best, it can suppress other negative addictions.
It could well prove the panacea to the problem of drugs, crime and early sexual activity, all of which have fatal consequences.
The sport is, however, very costly to run and many talented young players drop out to pursue other interests that put food on the table, and when they fail they turn to drugs and perpetrate social ills. The sport is left poorer and bereft of a broader pool of players from which the national team could select.
The national team is an emblematic institution of the country that positively impacts its international image and improves tourism. Swaziland has proven to the world that it is among Africa’s leading countries in producing football talent that has gone on to compete in the world at all levels.
The genetic and physiological make-up of the southern African player puts him or her at an advantage when compared with the rest of Africa’s larger and slower players. We have identified at least four key areas in which both SMVAF and the PLS have common interests:
a The need to increase awareness of SMVAF services; and make the Fund user-friendly
aLack of sponsorship (mainly in rural areas)
aRoad safety awareness
aPoor infrastructure to play the sport of football
Who are the beneficiaries of the partnership between SMVAF and the PLS?
Answer: The involvement of SMVAF must immediately impact.
all road users, especially the thousands who travel to play and watch soccer countrywide throughout the week as the sport is now played round the clock, but especially on weekends, through targeted messaging. This also goes for other road users with whom soccer enthusiasts share the road.
The model of this tournament should be such that the involvement of fresh talent from the regions is enhanced, so that at least two players will partake in the final. Other tournaments before the Ingwenyama Cup have done well to involve Super League teams. This tournament will go a step further and introduce an innovative initiative, where at least 72 players from the regions would be attached to the 24 Premier League and First Division teams with the teams being obligated to field at least one of these players in every match.
The clubs will have an option to sign any of these players.
Winning clubs will be assisted to invest at least 10% of the winner’s package and set up proper club management structures in line with CAF’s Club Licensing programme.
This could be done through involving a financial management services partner. Part of this package would have to be used in purchasing players from clubs in the regions to improve the economies of these clubs.
Q: Tell us more about the talk of legacy projects and if possible break them down for the public?
Answer: We can confirm that we have in mind legacy projects attached to this tournament. However, we are still consulting with stakeholders. The legacy projects will focus mainly on issues of national priority including those of health, food security, education and culture.