Soccer in dark over sponsors
A HASTILY arranged press conference to bed down sponsorship of the Top 8 is on the cards this week, just days before the start of the competition on Friday.
But it is likely to do little to stem a growing deluge of speculation about whether the Premier Soccer League will renew its deals with the sponsors of its three other major properties.
A picture of a league in crisis comes on the back of a stony silence on the progress of talks to extend existing relationships with Absa, Nedbank and Telkom.
But officials in the league's top structures and club officials remain confident the deals will be done soon ... albeit after the season is under way.
There is still haggling and posturing around the Absa deal, where the PSL initially sought a 100% increase on the last five-year R450-million contract but Absa is offering a much lower increase.
Insiders say the counter-offer from Absa is an increase of about 30%, the same as the increment the league received from its new television rights package, now up to R2-million for the next five seasons.
Absa is the league's title sponsor, and has ploughed millions into a diverse sports portfolio in recent years, after taking over from South African Breweries.
Talks with Nedbank and Telkom are less urgent as their properties kick off later in the season. The Telkom Knockout starts in October and the Nedbank Cup in February.
PSL chairman Irvin Khoza has taken personal charge of the negotiations and clubs are vocal in expressing their confidence in his ability to get the deals done.
"This has not even been a topic for discussion at any of the meetings. There is no worry among the clubs," said a senior official in the top structures of the league.
"There are the normal obstacles in negotiations which will be removed after more talking," explained another. Both spoke on condition of anonymity.
Failure to deliver in the coming weeks will damage Khoza's image.
On Saturday night, Orlando Pirates coach Augusto Palacios found it hard to keep up with developments when he was asked about this weekend's match against Bloemfontein Celtic in the Top 8 (or is it still the MTN8?).
"We took this game (Saturday night's Soweto derby against Chiefs) as seriously as we could to prepare for the MTN8 . I do not really know what to call it, maybe Top 8?" Palacios said, turning to a PSL official sitting next to him for enlightenment.
The official replied: "Just the Top 8 for now."
Pirates are defending champions of the Top 8 and with TV broadcast schedules already set it remains to be seen whether the confusion over sponsorships will end this week.