In what would be a huge blow to amateur football in the country, SA Breweries (SAB) is likely to withdraw its sponsorship for the SAB Regional League after almost 20 years in grassroots soccer.
City Press has reliably learnt that this year’s SAB Under-21 National Championships, which will be held in North West next month, could be the last after the beer company decided not to renew its sponsorship.
The league, which is a feeder to the second division, has produced some of Bafana’s stars, including captain Thulani Hlatshwayo.
However, Safa chief executive officer Russell Paul said he was confident the two parties could still work together in future. He said that, as negotiations were continuing, it would be premature to go into detail.
“We are still in discussions and trying to iron things out. I think it is still a 50-50 scenario, depending on what happens between now and next month.
“We will be in a position to give a clear indication in the next two weeks. We will also announce where the championships will be held, but possibly in North West,” said Paul yesterday.
In a detailed statement, the SAB all but confirmed the end of its partnership with Safa.
SAB’s vice-president of corporate affairs, Zoleka Lisa, said: “The SAB supports the growth and development of South African sports, and our relationship with Safa has been a great platform to help achieve this objective. Currently, the two parties are in talks relating to the SAB’s transition from the SAB League, which the SAB has been a partner of for close to two decades.
“The SAB League has laid a solid foundation for talent identification over the years, resulting in more than 30 000 youngsters nationwide working towards a football career.
“In an effort to optimise our community development initiatives by ensuring we continue to make a real impact to society, we are scaling up our corporate affairs initiatives, which will assist young people with accessing entrepreneurship opportunities, as well as ramping up activities focused on responsible consumption of alcohol among youngsters,” Lisa said.
“SAB is truly proud to have had such a successful and enduring partnership with Safa in the people’s game as the SAB League for more than two decades. We thank the players, their families, spectators and the officials for all of their support over the years.
“We remain steadfastly committed to driving impactful youth development initiatives at a grassroots level in South Africa. Through our product brands, we will place as much weight behind these efforts as we can,” she said.
“The SAB remains a committed supporter of our national team in partnership with Safa.”
According to Safa, more than 1 000 local football clubs, comprising more than 26 000 players, participate in the SAB Regional League every week.
The countrywide competitions lead to the provincial play-offs, which are held towards the end of each season.
This eventually results in a total of 18 teams, which are then broken into two teams per province, being promoted to the Safa Second Division, also known as the ABC Motsepe League.