Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 10, February 2010
SADC needs to intensify World Cup marketing
by Kizito Sikuka

Recent confirmations by at least 26 teams to camp in South Africa for the 2010 Soccer World Cup final has left other southern African countries with a much bigger task if they are to fully benefit from the opportunities presented by the tournament.

A total of 32 countries are expected to take part in the month-long soccer extravaganza scheduled for June-July in South Africa.

By 31 January, as many as 26 teams had confirmed to the world football governing body, FIFA that they would be based in the host nation, South Africa.

The remaining countries were given until 7 February to submit their final list of potential bases. FIFA is expected to make an announcement on their choices soon.

But the recent trend shows that all participating countries could end up camping in South Africa.

South Africaís neighbours in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) had been actively marketing to the qualifying teams as suitable venues for training camps, especially those venues that are less than a 90-minute flight from Johannesburg, as per the FIFA regulations.

But with the deadline having already elapsed none of the so-called big teams have said they would be based outside South Africa.

England, one of the tournamentís biggest draw cards in terms of travelling fans, said last year that it would be based in Rustenburg, South Africa.

Other crowd pullers such as Australia, Brazil, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Portugal and the United States have also settled for South Africa.

This is despite notable efforts by a number of SADC countries such as Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe that had put forward attractive packages to persuade some teams to camp in their countries.

Arrangements to relax visa requirements, building new stadiums and sending high-powered officials to participating teams were some of the strategies employed by some SADC member states in a bid to attract the teams to camp in their countries.

At one point, some of the teams that include Brazil and Portugal made strong indications that they could camp outside South Africa only to change their minds at the last minute.

Hosting visiting teams to the World Cup would have presented a lifetime opportunity for SADC countries to benefit from the finals, mainly because prominent teams often travel with large entourages and fans.

SADC member states would have used such achievement as a springboard for future marketing strategies to attract more fans and tourists to the country.

But with little chance of southern Africa hosting some of the teams, the regionís remaining hope is to intensify if not employ new marketing strategies as well as focus more on the thousands of soccer fans and tourists expected to come to South Africa for the tournament.

More than 90, 000 soccer fans and officials mainly from qualifying countries are set to come to South Africa for the finals, according to FIFA. This is in addition to as many as 400, 000 tourists from all over the world that are expected to visit Africa during the tournament.

Unlike participating teams, fans and tourists are not required to notify FIFA about their stay during the finals.

The "90-minute-flight" regulation does not also apply to fans. Instead, soccer tourists would prefer to settle in surrounding countries that offer better and attractive packages.

South Africa has already acknowledged that it would only accommodate about half of the fans and tourists expected, leaving the remaining half up for grabs by other countries in Africa.

Vibrant and sound infrastructure such as roads and hotels are some of the major factors that would attract tourists to countries other than South Africa.

SADC member states have been encouraged to look beyond the finals and ensure that benefits of hosting such a major event continue to be realized even after the tournament.

This could be done through jointly marketing the region as a safe investment destination with a combined population of more than 250 million and an estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$471 billion.

Studies have shown that a number of investors usually use such major events to scout for new investment in sectors such as tourism, trade, energy and infrastructure development.

Southern Africa may also use the World Cup as a focal point of a major drive to revive its tourism industry that has not always enjoyed a good perception internationally.

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SANF is produced by the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), which has monitored regional developments since 1985

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