Danny Jordaan: The man in charge

By Alex Duval Smith

Posted on June 9, 2010 07:34

For Danny Jordaan, chief executive of the 2010 World Cup local organising committee, the month of June will be the most important of his life. He spoke to The Africa Report.

Danny Jordaan: I want us to display Africa’s capacity for efficient organisation, to demonstrate that we have the infrastructure, the know-how and the strong commercial support for the event. Also, the World Cup is about showing how football can work as a life-giving driver of hopes and ambitions.??

What will be the legacy to South Africa and to Africa as a whole??

We are focusing on connecting the World Cup with the grassroots development of football. There is also the infrastructural legacy – the roads, airports, the information technology and the increase in tourism.??

Sixteen years after the first all-race elections, as perhaps the Rainbow Nation dream is fading, is there also a nation-building component to the World Cup?

One of our campaigns in the run-up to the World Cup has been ‘Football Fridays’. We ask everyone to wear the national jersey on Fridays. It has been so successful that the team jerseys have run out in the shops. I think the World Cup will have a tremendous impact on building patriotism and a single vision for this country.With the World Cup has come the realisation of the tremendous power of FIFA. We have seen by-laws introduced that will ban street traders from operating near stadiums. Many local artists are upset at having been excluded from the inaugural concert. It seems at times as though the local organising committee is scared to stand up to FIFA??

Your question gives a particular definition to FIFA, as some sort of powerful body from Europe. The fact is that the 53 countries of the African continent constitute the biggest bloc in terms of voting power in FIFA. If our ability to influence is not consistent with the numbers, then I think it is time we changed that. If we vote as Africa, then the resolutions and policies we want will go through. The World Cup should help: we have already seen the influence of Japan, Korea, France and Germany increase in the wake of their World Cups.

Will the stadiums be full??

We have had some problems, but I’ve no doubt we’ll sell out. One of the issues has been the need to bring the World Cup ticket-purchasing experience closer to the reality of African fans. Africans, including South Africans, are used to going in, putting their money on the table and walking out with a ticket. But the process has been web-based and African fans who do not have access to the internet have not been able to compete on an equal footing. In South Africa, we have now opened ticketing centres where people can just walk in.??

That’s all very well for South African fans. Recently, Nigeria had registered only 800 applications. Botswana, the biggest African buyer outside South Africa, had sent 1,200 applications. Is there something you can do at this late stage to give more Africans the chance to come?

We have agreed with Match ?[FIFA’s appointed travel and accommodation agency] to tour the five African countries that have qualified as well as the Southern African ?region. We would like to see counter sales in as many of those countries as possible. The second problem for African fans is the lack of direct ?flights. It’s often easier for African fans to fly to France or England than to go to another African country.??

This was predictable. We know most people do not have credit cards in Africa, or the internet. Why didn’t you raise it with FIFA earlier? Were they resistant to changing their ticket-sales system because of fears of fraud?

I think they were worried about that. But it’s a World Cup and FIFA’s policy is that every fan – whether in New Zealand, Australia, Tokyo, New York or Accra – should have an equal chance to buy a ticket. The fairest way is the internet. But unfortunately that is the obstacle for African fans. If you had started over-the-counter ticket sales earlier, then African fans would have had an advantage over New Zealand fans. That would not have been fair either.

Nevertheless, there is definitely a problem. There have been 160,000 tickets sold in the United States and that reflects that it is one of the countries with the highest internet penetration in the world. The lowest ticket sales are in the countries with the lowest penetration. Perhaps the ticket-sales statistics have demonstrated a point that we will have to take into account at future World Cups.??

Man of Action

If FIFA believes in South Africa, it is mainly because the president of world football’s governing body, Joseph Blatter, has faith in Danny Jordaan. Born to humble beginnings in Port Elizabeth, Jordaan has grown into the ultimate Mr Fix-it. ”Call Danny, he’ll find a solution,” is the oft-heard mantra in South African soccer. He keeps his own diary, rather than depending on a secretary. His two mobile phones constantly beep, buzz and ring. ”With two World Cup bids behind me, I’ve become used to calendars and short deadlines,” he says.

Daniel Alexander Jordaan was born in 1951 – the same year as the South African Soccer Federation (SASF) came into being as a militant tool attempting to break down racial barriers in sport. Football – which is always called soccer in South Africa – was a ‘black’ sport, thus neglected by the authorities in favour of ‘white’ sports such as rugby or cricket. Jordaan says laws banning the movement of black people could be challenged at football stadiums. ”To play in a club or to go to matches was a way of challenging bans on mass meetings,” he says.?

Classified as “coloured” under apartheid, and thus granted slightly more freedom of movement than his black compatriots, Jordaan used his complexion to navigate across boundaries in the activists’ world. At university in the early 1970s he played cricket and football.He spent a year as a semi-professional striker for P.E. United. A trained teacher, he acted as a mediator in student riots before joining the United Democratic Front (UDF) and later the African National Congress (ANC). As his ambition evolved to use sport as a tool against apartheid, he became president of SASF and led delegations to Lusaka, Zambia, in 1987 and the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, in 1990, for secret talks with the ANC. ”Those meetings were crucial. The ANC had understood that sport also needed to undergo a radical transformation.”?

After South Africa’s first all-race elections in 1994, Jordaan became an MP. But his eye was on spearheading efforts to bring the Olympic Games to Cape Town in 2004 or the World Cup to South Africa in 2006. His preference was for the World Cup and in 1997 he left active politics to become director-general of the new, all-race South African Football Association (SAFA). When South Africa’s first bid failed, the world’s football chiefs – including FIFA president Joseph Blatter – were impressed by Jordaan’s dignity in defeat and his stubborn belief in his country’s ability to host the event. After receiving encouraging signals to persevere from FIFA’s head office in Zurich, Jordaan resigned from SAFA to pursue the campaign for 2010. A down-to-earth hardworker, Jordaan is a politician in the best sense of the word.

By Alex Duval Smith

FIFA has set up fan parks in a dozen capital cities. But there isn’t one in Africa, outside South Africa.

That does not mean African cities cannot organise their own big screens. There is an upside and a downside to fan parks. An official FIFA fan park comes with the constraint that you cannot enlist competing sponsors. But if you have a public viewing area in Lagos or Accra, there is great flexibility for local sponsors.??

Who should organise those public viewing areas??

They should be set up by municipalities. In South Africa we are going to have 10 official fan parks. But there will also be 61 other public viewing areas operated by the towns and the cities. In Accra or Lagos they can do that, too.??

What about the disappointing ticket sales to Europeans. Was it the high cost of the airfare, the recession or security fears?

I think it’s the global economic crisis and the perception that airline and hotel prices were unreasonable. The tourism ministry has asked for research on the matter and there is an inquiry into the airlines’ behaviour by the Competition Commission. I also think fans are influenced by whether their country has a chance. I think we will see an influx for the last 16. When you have big teams going into the quarter- and semi-finals, then fans just cannot keep away.

??South Africa is the smallest economy to organise a World Cup since Uruguay in the 1930s and Chile in the 1950s. The South African government has spent $4bn on getting ready. Is it viable for a country like South Africa to organise such an event??

Absolutely. From 1994 until the global crisis, this country always collected tax revenue in excess of its budget. This covered us for most of the infrastructure expenditure. Then came the crisis and you saw a decrease in tax collection. The new infrastructure, like the airport ?expansion programmes, the roads, the speed train and the investment in telecoms will be there after the World Cup. What we want now is for this economy to grow. We want 15 million tourists by 2014 and increased investment attracted by the spending on infrastructure.

The local organising committee’s profit is estimated to range between R400m and R1bn ($137m). What will you do with that money??

The host of the World Cup is the South African Football Association and the money will go for football development. But it’s too early to talk about profits because the bulk of the revenue comes from ticket sales. We don’t know what the final numbers will be. Category-one tickets are between $400 and $600. Category- four tickets are $20. South African fans are buying category-four tickets so we still cannot predict what the final figure will be.??

What has been your greatest challenge in organising the World Cup, and would you do it again??

I don’t know. I did it because it was part of the road I travelled – first in ?fighting for the liberation of the country and the democratic order, then to make sure the country succeeds. We had a divided society. The World Cup’s role is to build a single, patriotic South Africa in which white and black South Africans have pride and can walk tall among the nations of the world. If I was asked again to organise an event and that kind of motivation wasn’t part of it, then I probably wouldn’t have the energy to do it.??

After the World Cup, what are you going to do? Return to politics, or stay in football or sport administration??

I have not decided. First of all I am going to have a long rest, disappear, change my phone number and reflect. I have been in football since 1972; it has been a long struggle.??

What is your dream final? Who will win??

The teams that are on form are Italy, Spain, Brazil and England. But you cannot write off Argentina, Germany or the Dutch. My own hope is for the African teams to do well. It would be marvellous to see an African team, it doesn’t matter which, reach the last four and then reach the final.

??Bafana Bafana?

The team is taking shape. There is a spirit there. Let’s just hope that the people of this country put them on their shoulders and give them the energy and drive to deliver. We hope to get at least to the second round.??

What are your greatest concerns in these final weeks??

We must not see a lot of injuries to great players. I want them all to be fit enough to come. And I want the football fans of the world – and that includes African countries – to come to our country and celebrate football here so that it’s a great celebration and a spectacular show.

This article was first published in The Africa Report World Cup 2010 special issue in May 2010

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