King Mswati III’s vanity soccer tournament that flopped with fans may have cost millions of emalangeni from public funds.
At least E5.8 million (US$580,000) had been diverted from government department budgets to underwrite the cost of the tournament, but it is unlikely that all this money will be recovered.
Fewer than 10,000 spectators attended the King’s Super Cup at Somhlolo National Stadium on Saturday (18 July 2015), although organisers predicted 30,000 people from Swaziland and abroad would attend.
The E5.8 million that was diverted from government departments to the Ministry of Sport, Culture and Youth Affairs might be an under-estimate. The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported the figure might have been higher. This was denied by Swazi Government spokesperson Percy Similane. The money was considered a loan and was expected to be repaid from income generated from the tournament.
Not all costs and income for the tournament are publicly available, but what is available suggests the tournament was a financial disaster.
To break-even financially, the tournament would need to generate E5.8 million to repay government departments, plus a further E1 million, which was widely reported to be the prize money available to the contesting teams.
In addition to this E6.8 million, the four participating clubs, which included the Kazier Chiefs and Orlando Pirates, two top teams from South Africa, would presumably require fees to play. The cost of this has not been made publicly available.
In addition to this, there would have been incidental costs for opening up the stadium and paying workers on the day. There were also undisclosed costs ahead of the tournament for such as publicity.
It is impossible to make accurate calculations for all of these costs, but even at a conservative estimate that the tournament needed to recoup only E6.8 million (the government loan plus the prize money), the income for the tournament falls far short.
It was widely reported in the Swazi media that fewer than 10,000 spectators attended the tournament. Reports on social media after the tournament finished suggested that many spectators were allowed to enter the stadium free-of-charge when it was realised attendance was so low and the King, who rules Swaziland as sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, would be embarrassed.
Assuming that 10,000 people did attend and they all paid the E250 entrance fee; there would have been E2.5 million generated (assuming that none of the cash receipts were stolen on the day).
The E2.5 million is still E4.3 million short of the E6.8 million combined cost of loans and prize money.
Other reported income for the tournament comprised E750,000 in sponsorship from companies and individuals, including Inyatsi Construction, Stefanutti Stocks and Kukhanya Construction.
This leaves E3.55 million still to find.
Tickets to attend a dinner prior to the tournament at which King Mswati was guest of honour cost E15,000 per table. It was not publicly reported how many tickets were sold, but it would need 236 tickets to be sold to meet the E3.55 million, shortfall.
Other income for the tournament came from DSTV, the satellite TV channel that broadcasts SuperSport. The fee paid to broadcast the tournament has not been publicly disclosed, but it was unlikely to be high. The matches were broadcast on SuperSport 4, which is not a premium channel and does not require viewers to pay a premium fee to receive. The channel generally broadcasts local soccer from countries across Africa, which has little appeal to viewers across the continent.
It is unlikely, therefore, that the fee for broadcast went too far in recovering the ‘missing’ E3.5 million.
Other income included the E550 each vendor at the tournament was required to pay in order to set up stalls.
Ahead of the tournament, the King’s Super Cup was widely reported inside Swaziland and abroad to be the personal idea of King Mswati.
The King’s Super Cup, which ran for the first time this year, was controversial from the start. Prodemocracy campaigners called on the South African clubs to boycott the tournament as it would be seen as supporting King Mswati, who has a poor record on human rights.
Political parties are not allowed to contest elections and opposition groups are banned under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.
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