A nation rejoiced in May 2004 when FIFA President Sepp Blatter announced that South Africa would host the 2010 World Cup. The people of South Africa seeing a chance to show case their country and dispel some of the beliefs that abound internationally. Others seeing the huge financial rewards it would bring their economy and also the opportunities to astute businessmen.
One such businessman was George Ioannides from Pretoria. At the start of 2007 he purchased the Trademarks bar close to Loftus Versfeld, the home of the Blue Bulls Super 14 Champions in 2009, and a venue for the FIFA World Cup in 2010.
In his bar he has 55 LCD televisions screens, as well as two, 2×2 metre screens. There are three bars in the venue and when the Bulls play he has on average 1500 people through the doors. Yet for the Confederations Cup he was forced to close his doors for 2 weeks, and at next years World Cup he cannot open for 6 weeks.
“Basically we have been evicted, and have been told we have no right to trade,” Mr Ioannides said during the Confederations Cup.
“None of the 300 tenants in and around Loftus have been allowed to trade or have access to their stores. We have not even been allowed access to check our fridges. The dentist in this area has had to close, as has the doctor. We were told that our business did not lend itself to what they have in mind. We will have lost 2million rand (about AUD330,000) in turnover, as we usually make close to 10 million rand (AUD1.6m) when the Springboks play at Loftus, with Italy playing Brazil there we would have been packed.”
“The Local organising committee have come in and covered over all of our signs, and even damaged them. The Loftus management have told us that their hands are tied and that the local organising committee signed everything over to FIFA. It is ethically wrong, would this happen in any other country where the World Cup was being hosted? I have to cover 400,000 rand in operating costs and rent, even though I am not open and no one is offering any compensation.” Mr Ioannides explained.
Amazingly the stipulations of the organising committees goes beyond just closing down businesses for the World Cup, the school calendar has also been changed. All of the schools have to take 6 weeks holiday during the World Cup. Some parents were not happy about this asking what would they do with their children during a six-week break in the middle of winter?
“I don’t think that this decision is vindictive,” Mr Ioannides continued, it is a decision that has been taken for the good of the country, and there have been a lot of benefits to South Africa hosting the world Cup. We finally have an excellent airport; our infrastructure is improving with new roads and the Gautrain. The exposure the country will get is immeasurable, and we all know that the World Cup is a billion dollar event. If you want us to close down the at least compensate us. If they had wanted us to sell Budweiser – the world cup sponsor – then ask us and we would have done that. At least help us with marketing costs once we re-open, we usually have 900 people in the bar on student nights and the same on a Friday lunch time, but after being closed for 6 weeks we are going to have to work hard to win that trade back.”
“The government may see us as a business run by white people, but we employ black staff. We look after our staff and we will pay them while they are not working, but some businesses won’t, and that means they have to find other work to feed their families and pay their bills. The tournament is giving South Africa a platform internationally but at what cost?”
Time to go Football is moving in
Loftus Versfeld, the stadium was sold over to FIFA for the Confederations Cup and he World Cup as were all the staid being used. Those patrons who had corporate boxes were told that they had to remove everything from their box a month prior to the tournament. If they wished to use their box they could but at a very high cost.
Mr George Tamkei advised that to use his companies box for the three Confederations Cup games held there, they were asked to pay US180, 000 for the 10 seats.
Mr George Ioannides was advised that he would have to pay US150, 000 for his 28 seats.
So crazy is the situation and so strong is the power of FIFA that for the week leading up to the Super 14 Rugby final, the Blue Bulls whose home ground is Loftus Versfeld, and who had won the hosting rights, could not use their own gym at the stadium. They had to move and use the gym at the University of Pretoria.