South African athletics’ most competitive track and field series in years, the Athletix Grand Prix Series, is now in major doubt following with withdrawal of its title sponsor.
And on a personal level, local sprinting sensation Akani Simbine and his coach, Werner Prinsloo, have also been left in the lurch.
According to the Sunday Times, Liquid Telecom have reneged on two lucrative sponsorship deals worth more than R23 million, which included a R8 million outlay for South Africa’s 1oom kingpin.
Simbine and his management staff are confident of landing new funding for the 25-year-old, especially given his marketability following his gold at the Commonwealth Games in Australia last year.
His agent, Peet van Zyl, told the paper that an early release from the contract had been negotiated in December already and, while Liquid Telecom provided no official explanation for its withdrawal, alleged that the company “felt there’s no future for them in athletics”.
It’s understood that Liquid also underwent a significant “change in management” quite soon after the agreements were signed.
However, it’s the Grand Prix Series’ fate that’s a cause for concern.
Athletics South Africa (ASA) has already organised three meets for March, which is supposed to provide high-quality preparation for this year’s World Championships.
Sunday Times also reports that Liquid Telecom hasn’t even paid for last year’s event, leaving Stillwater Sports – the company tasked with organising the Grand Prix on behalf of ASA – with debts of over R10 million.
“The company is no longer involved in the sponsorships of athletics in SA and is engaged in a confidential dispute resolution process with Athletics SA and Stillwater Sports Management,” Liquid Telecom told the publication in a statement.