Originally published in the Sunday Tribune, January 16, 2010. Page 2.
A new sponsor has been found for the hallowed “Shark Tank” – but the Sharks faithful will be kept in the dark a little longer before they know whose name will soon be emblazoned on the team’s home ground.
Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl told the Sunday Tribune this week that a deal was signed and came into effect at the beginning of January. However, Van Zyl refused to divulge the sponsor’s name.
And while silence prevails at what was once King’s Park – and most recently the Absa Stadium – rumours have been doing the rounds that cellphone companies MTN and Vodacom are interested. However, two other contenders mooted as being prospective sponsors, Mr Price and Sibaya, denied any sponsorship deal this week, as did Vodacom.
MTN, strongly rumoured to be interested in a deal that would see it rival Vodacom’s sponsorship of rugby, said it would not comment.
“MTN is not at liberty to disclose any details of such discussions,” said Bridget Bhengu, public relations and communication officer for the company, without responding directly to the three questions posed directly to her. Those questions were whether she could confirm or deny that MTN had signed a deal with the Sharks, whether any discussions had taken place between the two organisations and if this was, hypothetically, a deal the company would be interested in.
Van Zyl was equally coy about who the new sponsor might be.
“A deal has been signed, but they want to make an official announcement, so I can’t say who they are at this stage. The company’s name will be announced before the start of the Super 15 season,” he said.
The season starts in Durban against the Cheetahs on February 19. Before then the Sharks play in a pre-season tournament in Cape Town against the Lions and the Stormers, starting on January 28. It is unclear if the announcement will be made before that tournament starts.
Asked for more details on the agreement, Van Zyl said it only incorporated the stadium name and not the sponsorship of the team itself.
Not even the Sharks’ official supporters’ club knows what is happening.
“Not one person has given me an indication of who the new sponsor might be,” said supporters’ club chairman George Laas this week.
“What I do know is that there are a lot of supporters who would like the name ‘King’s Park’ back. That name means something to the supporters, especially now that we are the Currie Cup champions.”
The deal with Absa – whose withdrawal as stadium sponsor ended an 11-year relationship with the Sharks – was worth a reported R15 million a year. It is unclear how much the new deal is worth, but there are rumours that it is significantly lower.