Bafana Bafana could lose millions if they fail to qualify for next year's Afcon
Failure to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals could cost Bafana Bafana as much as $4m (about R576m) in prize money alone‚ never mind millions more in longer-term lost sponsorship‚ marketing and television revenue.
With the once powerful Bafana brand reduced now to occasional mockery‚ the country’s football is at a serious crossroads going into their key Group E qualifier against Nigeria at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Saturday.
A loss to the Super Eagles would put the chances of Bafana in serious peril‚ leaving them needing to avoid defeat away in their last game against Libya to qualify for next year’s tournament in Cameroon.
SA have already missed out on their last two major tournaments - the 2017 Afcon finals in Gabon and the 2018 World Cup – leaving the SA Football Association (Safa) without many sponsors‚ without a kit deal that pays them hard cash and without a television rights deal‚ that has collapsed in recent weeks.
It is in stark contrast to the days when sponsors were tripping over themselves and banging down the association’s door to be linked to the Bafana brand.
The costs of any further setbacks will hit Safa hard and the ripple effect will have wider negative consequences for the country’s most popular sport.
But if Bafana do beat Nigeria on Saturday‚ they will qualify.
A draw might also be enough depending on what Libya achieve away against the Seychelles the same day.
That game on the Indian Ocean island kicks off 30 minutes before the Bafana and Nigeria match.
The immediate impact of qualifying will be cash payments as one of the 24 finalists as the the Confederation of African Football (Caf) hands out a share of the marketing and television revenue.
This disbursement has increased some 64 percent over the last tournament because of a new deal with French company Lagardere Sports.
Countries that qualify for the Afcon finals are now guaranteed a minimum of US$475,000 (some R6.9m) with more money for success in the event.
Finishing third in the opening round group earns US$575,000 (some R8‚3m) while a quarter-final place is worth US$800,000 (some R11‚5m).
The two losing semifinalists each earn 1‚5-million dollars (some R21‚7m); there is US$2-million for the runner-up (almost R30m) and US$4-million (almost R58m) for the winner‚ a 166 percent increase on the prize money (US$1‚5-million) that 2015 winners Ivory Coast took home.