Wits laughs off claims that it’s struggling financially

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With its parent company having recorded a healthy trading profit of R6.7bn in September, Bidvest Wits chairman Alan Fainman can’t help but laugh at any suggestion that the football club was going through financial challenges.

The rumour is the furthest thing from the truth, but it was brought on by the trimming down that the club underwent a few months ago, including the shock departure of club CEO Jose Ferreira.

Fainman, the CEO of Bidvest Services – the biggest division in the group – took over the club in 2017 when Brian Joffe left.

“The club is definitely not being sold and there is no financial problem.

“We just felt that the club was a bit over-structured and we had to trim it down,” Fainman told Sowetan in what he said was his first interview since being appointed chairman.

The club has assured its supporters that all is well.

The father of three is a football man through and through. One needn’t look further than his office in Rivonia, where football memorabilia of his beloved Manchester United hang proudly on the wall alongside that of Eric Cantona, Bryan Robson and George Best.

“I am without doubt a supporter of Man United. Here at home I have a history with football that dates back to my teens,” he said.

“I supported (Kaizer) Chiefs while growing up, in fact, myself and(Chiefs boss) Kaizer Motaung go way back. We had a family dry cleaning business called First Dry Cleaners and we once did a promotion with the club,” said Fainman.

Bidvest Services contributes 30% of the total revenue of the group and reported R20bn in revenue this year.

The Wits players are in good hands, confirms the club.

The club is perhaps the only company within Bidvest – which has a 130,000-strong workforce – that is not for profit.

“The money that goes into running a club like Wits is anywhere between R60m to R80m and none of it comes back.

“The club is certainly not about making money. In SA you can’t make much money from football,” he said.

While Fainman has the financial muscle to sign any player in the country, he said the club has a responsibility to not be financially reckless.

“In Europe you have financial fair play and that is relevant to our football.

“We don’t want to have 40 players and most of them are not playing,” he said.

“But certainly for us to keep top players such as Tyson [Hlatshwayo] and Buhle Mkhwanazi, we have to pay them well, but it must not be over the top.”

Having led Bidvest Services to dizzying heights, Fainman will be expected to do the same with the old university club.

Facts and Figures: 

  • Bidvest owns 60% of the club and Wits University owns the rest.
  • In 2006, Bidvest only sponsored the club but later bought a majority share.
  • Bidvest Wits is the only soccer club in SA that has a corporate in its name.
  • The Bidvest Group is led by: Eric Diack (chair), Mpumi Madisa (CEO-designate), Lindsay Ralphs (chief executive).
  • Alan Fainman is CEO of Bidvest Services and chair of Bidvest Wits FC.
  • Bidvest Group has about 110,000 employees in SA and 18,000 overseas.
  • The group reported a trading profit of R6.7bn for financial year ending June 2019.
  • The group has seven divisions: 1. Bidvest Services (R2.2b trading profit); 2. Freight (R1.3b); 3. Commercial Products (R617m); 4. Office and Print (R735m ); 5. Financial Services (R585m); 6. Automotive (R609m) and 7. Electrical (R258m).

SOURCE: Sowetan newspaper

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