Mark Gleeson

Bafana moniker greed resolved

2011-06-27 09:44
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson
You can see it either as entrepreneurial excellence; exploitation and opportunism or just downright theft, but how pleasing the issue of the commercial exploitation of Bafana Bafana's nickname is now over.

It has been a sorry saga, which has exposed greed and incompetence in abundant measure and stained a popular moniker, which has become an international brand the South African Football Association have agreed to pay R5 million to Stanton Woodrush, a holding company owned by the Smidt family, who have been the legal owners of the Bafana Bafana trademark since the early 1990s.

SAFA now own the trademark that morally has been their property since Sibusiso Mseleku, then a writer at the Sowetan and these days sports editor of the City Press, first thought up the nickname for the national team.

But SAFA initially did not like the nickname, which gained popularity with the public and, once the national team won the 1996 African Nations Cup finals, had an international resonance.

Football bosses were too slow off the mark in realising the commercial possibilities and protecting their potential asset. By the time they got around to seek to make money out of the Bafana Bafana, they found it had been already registered.

Businessman Stan Smidt saw the potential long before and, by filing in a few forms and buying some revenue stamps, stealthily registered the brand so he could exploit it.

And for almost 20 years, Smidt and Sons have been able to make a fortune out of a slogan they had not created, effectively guilty of stealing someone else’s idea and being able to own it only because they were quickest off the mark.

They were taken to court by SAFA but held onto the trademark because sometimes, as Oliver Twist said, “the law is an ass”.

Some people admire Smidt for seeing the gap and taking it when others around him were sleeping. But these are those who worship at the temple of money and its shameless pursuit.

There can be no moral justification for holding the country’s most popular institution to ransom for decades and so shamelessly profiting off other people’s intellectual property.

Now that the World Cup has come and gone, they realise the brand will never be as commercial effective again and have finally agreed to walk away, with a R5 million payout. It has taken months of negotiations.

Should they have any moral fiber they will hand this money over to a football charity. But do not hold your breath, this has been a story of greed in excess.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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