NBL’s N$24m sports purse in limbo

By Michael Uugwanga

NAMIBIA Breweries Limited (NBL) has said that they will have to revisit all their commercial strategies before deciding on whether to continue sponsoring the men’s senior national football team, the Brave Warriors, the men senior rugby team the Welwitschias’, as well as two teams in South Africa and the Zambian men’s Sevens side.

NBL has for a number of years been the main sponsor of the Brave Warriors’ under its Tafel Lager brand. They were also the main sponsor of Tafel Lager Griquas in the South Africa’s Currie Cup competition and Tafel Lager Maties Rugby Clubthat plays in South Africa’s universities club competition. NBL’s Windhoek Draught is the total sponsor for the Welwitschias’ and the Zambian men’s Sevens Rugby team – which Windhoek Draught Beer started sponsoring in 2018 to market its brand beyond Namibia’s borders.

NBL spent about N$7 million per year on the Brave Warriors and about N$2 million on the Welwitschias.

In the last three years between 2018 to 2019, NBL spent about N$22 million alone towards the Brave Warriors’ 37 matches played,   including African Nations Championship  (CHAN) matches, friendly matches, 2022 FIFA World Cup preliminary round matches, Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) cup and Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) matches.

The N$2 million towards the Welwitschias’ covers international participations such as Rugby Africa Cup matches, World Rugby Nations Cup participation, Currie Cup participations, SuperSport Ruby Challenge Challenge competition, and rugby world cup preparations, the European or Asian tours.

With the ban on alcohol sales announcedin the wake of the state of emergency declared by President Hage Geingob toward the end of March, the emergency regulations to combat the spread of Covid-19 strictly forbidanyone from producing or selling alcohol. Given that alcohol sales is the main source of income to NBL, the ban on alcohol trade means NBL will be forced to consider cutting costs, with sport sponsorship likely to be one of the areas affected.

NBL managing director Marco Wenk, eluding that it is too early to talk about future sport sponsorships, after telling Confidente that the safety and wellbeing of their employees remains the priority.

“At this stage we are thus unable to provide comment in respect of any possible future sponsorship commitments with any degree of certainty. Our current number one priority is the safety and wellbeing of our employees while we focus on ensuring sustainable business operations for NBL,” he said.

“The way forward will depend greatly on both NBL’s financial ability to further support such sponsorships, but also how and when these sporting codes will return to normality and once again become a marketable commodity within the current Covid-19 environment.

“During these uncertain and unprecedented times, NBL has been significantly impacted by the restriction imposed during various stages of the lockdown. As a result we are revisiting all NBL’s commercial strategies that are in place, including the sponsorship platforms we have historically invested into.”

The Brave Warriors were due to play two 2021 AFCON Qualifier matches, one in June against CHAD on 9 June and against Guinea on 8 September before the matches were called off due to Covid-19.

The Brave Warriors were also due to play at the CHAN tournament that was scheduled for last month (April) in Cameroon before the event was put on hold also due to Covid-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile the Welwitschias, who have not played a competitive match since returning from the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan on 6 October against New Zealand’s All-Blacks, were due to tour Asia later this year, but such a tour is likely to be called off due to Covid-19 pandemic.

The office of the Ministry of Sport, Youth and National Service has said that the Minister (Agnes Tjongarero) will only comment on the matter after the tabling of the 2020/2021 national budget expected to be tabled in the National Assembly on 26 May, after Confidente wanted to find out from the line ministry if it has any plan in place to rescue the two national teams in case NBL decides to end the relation.