The South African Premiership -- the richest league in Africa -- is seeking a new sponsor after Absa Bank announced it is ending a 13-year partnership.
League chairman Irvin Khoza said there are four contenders to take over the 16-club championship, which runs from August to May and is screened throughout the continent.The veteran official, who is also chairman of hugely popular Soweto club Orlando Pirates, gave little away when pressed by reporters for the names of the potential new sponsors.
"We are in discussions with four potential sponsors -- two of these companies are international and two are local," he said.
"The new sponsor of the Premiership will be announced after the 2019/2020 season is concluded (probably in late August)."
Johannesburg-based DStv, a sub-Saharan broadcaster, has been linked by the media with the sponsorship, as have international betting company Betway.
SuperSport, which has 15 channels in the DStv package, are the main broadcasters of the Premiership, having signed a third, five-year deal last year for an undisclosed amount.
They reportedly paid 1.6 billion rand in 2007 for the initial deal and two billion rand for the first renewal.Betway recently agreed a three-year deal to bankroll the South African Test and one-day international cricket teams.
Kelvin Watt, the Africa managing director for sport and entertainment marketing research company Nielsen Sports, believes the Premiership sponsorship is extremely attractive.
"There is no sponsorship that resonates as strongly with a broad range of South Africans as the Premiership," he told the Arena Holdings media group.
Errol Madlala, director of Pitch Sports Media and Communications, agreed that supporting the Premiership was a prize well worth pursuing.
"Football is a very strong market and the Premiership provides 10 months of weekly engagement with fans and gets the biggest share of the sport market.
- Not related to coronavirus -
"If it is no longer important to the needs of Absa, it definitely will be in the interests of someone else to get that kind of exposure."
Absa sponsorship boss Mtunzi Jonas said the decision of one of five major banks in South Africa to withdraw was not related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
"The economic impact was there long before COVID-19 and I do not think the timing matters," he said.
"Absa senior leaders have taken a decision which they feel is best for the company," he said of a bank that sponsors the country's rugby team, who won the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
Renowned for its efficient organisation, the Premiership is commonly described as the "EPL (English Premier League) of Africa".
The South African Premiership offers prize money that the majority of African countries can only dream of matching.
With the 2019/2020 season set to resume this month after a coronavirus-induced suspension, teams will be chasing a record 15 million rand ($895,000/790,000 euro) first prize.
Even the team finishing last pocket 440,000 rand, more than many champions earn among the 54 member states of the Confederation of African Football (CAF).
What top-flight South African clubs dread most is being relegated as it has a potentially crippling financial impact.
Premiership clubs receive a 2.5 million rand monthly grant, even during the June/July off-season, while second-tier sides get only 400,000 rand.
And while the Premiership champions collect 15 million rand, the second division winners have to make do with 300,000 rand.
There are also three knockout competitions with first prizes of eight, seven and four million rand for Premiership clubs, but lower league sides can play in only one of them, the FA Cup.