Tuesday, 12 July 2011

FIFA Legacy Fund "Up and Running Within Days"... and Not Before Time

One year and two days after the gleaming World Cup closing ceremony at Soccer City, Danny Jordaan insists the promised $100m FIFA Legacy Fund is on the verge of materialising.

Jordaan, head of the South African organising committee, travelled to Zurich, Switzerland to conclude negotiations which will see the promised cash for “grass roots development” handed out to local communities.

Jordaan is believed to have finalised arrangements for the fund, which amounts to around R700m given current exchange rates.

So far just $25m of the promised fund has been spent – $20m on building the swanky SAFA headquarters near Soccer City which was completed before the tournament began and $5m on 50 buses already handed over to the regional SAFA branches.

On December 17, 2010, recently re-elected president Sepp Blatter said in Johannesburg: "FIFA are not a circus where we pitch our tent and remove them when the event is over. FIFA will leave a lasting legacy for the youth of South Africa.”

“We always said that the first World Cup on African soil should leave a lasting sports and social legacy. This trust is yet another concrete achievement in this area."

While the exchange rate has worked in his favour, Jordaan has been working for months to get the fund up and running, and he insists an eight-man board of trustees – two from FIFA, four from SAFA and two independent members – will be deciding on the fate of the fund “within days”.

Needy institutions – non-profit and charity organisations – will soon be invited to put their proposals to the trustees “for scrutiny and approval” along the lines of the lottery fund.

Jordaan, deputy president of SAFA, spent last Sunday near Bronkhorstspruit, north of Pretoria, opening a new pitch which was inaccurately described as having been paid for by the FIFA Legacy Fund in some areas.

The R6.3m ($900,000) project, which also features a clubhouse, has been completed in the rural community of Ekangala.

The development is just one of 52 artificial pitches promised as a World Cup legacy. Four have been completed so far - at Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, Upington in the Northern Cape, and in North West and the Eastern Cape. Two further projects “aiming to give marginalised communities access to quality” are “under construction”.

But those facilities are being paid for by a combination of funds from SAFA and the National Lottery Fund... not by FIFA’s promised Legacy Fund.

Speaking at Ekangala on Sunday, Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale said: "Before the World Cup we were doubted by everyone, but we managed to pull of one of the most successful and talked about tournaments in FIFA's history.

"We made a promise before the World Cup that we wanted the event to leave a legacy, and the beautiful pitch you see today is a result of all that.

"We cannot have the Radebes, the Pienaars, the Khunes and the Jalis without development, and the new pitch you see here and around the country speaks to that."

Jordaan chose the pragmatic approach. He said: "We want to urge the people here to own this and treat with the care it deserves. We don't want to come back here and see it vandalised, it's for football development, and that's what we want to see."

On a more congratulatory note, he added: "The World Cup was one of the most special moments in our country. The World Cup started when Mandela walked out of prison and ended when he was driven onto that pitch during the closing ceremony and waved to the crowd.

“The tournament saw black and white coming together and co-owning the country just like the non-racial South Africa Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo wanted.”

Looking ahead to the slightly-troubled 2014 World Cup in Brazil, he said: “We have established many benchmarks that the next host would have to achieve and surpass.”

Though Jordaan was understandably happy with the tournament he played such a major part in organising with FIFA’s Jerome Valcke, Jordaan will be only too aware of the problems the World Cup has left behind – and it amounts to more than unused stadia.

The 310,000 foreign visitors fell about one-third short of original expectations, and the $521m spent by fans was a long way short of the R33 billion ($4.8bn) the government spent on stadiums, infrastructure, a new airport in Durban, organisation and security.

Which might explain why he is so eager to get FIFA – who have so far reported record revenue of $631m in South Africa - to deliver on their Legacy Fund promise.

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