JOHANNESBURG: The city of Johannesburg has withdrawn its bid to host the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) – casting doubt on the country’s commitment to hosting the tournament.
The council confirmed yesterday that Johannesburg will not participate in the hosting of any matches when the tournament starts next summer.
“ … the city has indicated that it is not in a position to host games and has therefore not signed a host agreement,” said council spokesman Gabu Tugwana yesterday.
Tugwana did not divulge reasons for the city’s withdrawal of its bid, referring inquiries to the South African Football Association’s (Safa) Local Organising Committee (LOC).
LOC chief executive Mvuzo Mbebe, however, contradicted Tugwana’s stance, claiming Johannesburg had not pulled out of the tournament. Mbebe said council had merely asked the LOC to deal with the Gauteng provincial government on Johannesburg’s hosting status as they (the province) were the ones who approached Safa on behalf of the city.
Gauteng Sports Department spokeswoman Nomazwe Ntlokwana said they were engaged in talks with Safa and they were hopeful that an agreement would be reached soon.
While laying out his department’s plans Lebogang Maile, the Gauteng MEC for Sport, undertook to bid for the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations official opening and closing games to be hosted at the FNB Stadium.
By not signing the contract, Johannesburg has joined Cape Town which has indicated that it would not do so until it has completed “due processes” dictated by law and which required full council approval, according to mayor Patricia de Lille. She explained that the processes relate to restrictions imposed on the city by the Municipal Finance Management Act – reinforcing the fact that the candidate cities were wary of the financial burdens they have to bear.
Two other candidate host cities – eThekwini (Durban) and Bloemfontein – have also not signed the agreement as they were awaiting ratification by the cabinet, in the hope that government gives financial guarantees to foot the bulk of the hosting bill.
The ratification is expected before April 20, when Safa announces the host cities.
Seven cities submitted bids to host the 2013 tournament, but Safa
and the Confederation of African Football (Caf) will whittle this down to five hosts.
It is understood that two cities – Mbombela (Nelspruit) and Nelson Mandela Bay (Port Elizabeth) have joined Rustenburg and signed on the hosting agreement.
It is believed the organisers are desperate to tie Johannesburg to the hosting contract because of its impressive stadiums, roads and telecommunications infrastructure.
It was reported last week that the main reason for the reluctance among the bidding cities to sign the host city agreement has been Safa’s financial demands.
In the current contracts, the Safa LOC want cities to bear the huge costs for hosting matches, including all logistics for the teams and referees on match days.