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I am a great believer in sponsorships, particularly sports sponsorship. My companies have sponsored some of the biggest names globally in their respective codes. Warwick was Everton’s official FA Cup sponsor and more recently, Warwick was the proud sponsor of the legendary Stormers and Western Province rugby franchise, which enjoys the biggest following globally. Less high profile, Warwick has been the biggest sponsor of South African bowls nationally for 20 years and golf clubs for a decade. In fact, we have some 500 advertising boards at important venues around South Africa, together with an extensive digital footprint.
Sports sponsorship is big business, and along with advertising, keeps global sport alive. Yet, not enough of the huge revenue generated by sports sponsorship filters down to grassroots and in my view, it must become a condition of any major sponsorship that a percentage is to be distributed to developing the respective code at grassroots community level.
It’s beyond time for top-flight professional sportspeople to do far more for their communities too. Nobody begrudges Kylian Mbappé his £100million a year salary at PSG, but isn’t it time that clubs spend a proportionate amount on sports development at community level?
There are some iconic sports sponsorships, but arguably the most inspiring is that of FC Barcelona’s ‘sponsorship’ of UNICEF, which in effect, provides free advertising to the United Nations Children’s Fund and pays it for the privilege.
But there’s a worrying trend in sports sponsorship that needs to be nipped in the bud before it grows of out control and that is gambling. Believe it or not, in 2021 no less than eight English Premiership clubs had gambling shirt sponsors. In 2017 my own club, Everton, contracted with an international gambling company too as its main shirt sponsor but cut short its relationship in 2020. At the time, Everton’s CEO commented that “in an ideal world, the team would not be sponsored by a gambling company”, adding that Everton did not want to be responsible for irresponsible gambling. While this is a rather effete response, the club is to be given credit for eventually making the right decision, yet it still has three gambling companies advertising on its perimeter boards.
Surely it’s time for the Football Association and the Premiership (and others globally) to call time on gambling sponsorship across the board? At one time it was unthinkable that tobacco sponsorship would be banned from Formula One motor racing. But even without Marlboro, F1 has flourished in every respect. Some will raise legitimate questions about global alcohol companies sponsoring FIFA world cups and EUFA championships, but there are some responsible age and time restrictions on such advertising.
In contrast to tobacco and alcohol sponsorship, gambling sponsorship has become a pervasive free-for-all beamed directly into the homes of young and old, rich and poor in every corner of the globe. Not only this, merchandising is a fundamental element of the commercial business model of major sporting codes and by so doing, we ourselves have become walking human advertisements for gambling companies, with all the ‘demonstration’ effect on our kids. Given the influence the beautiful game has on the lives of hundreds of millions across the globe contrasted with the corrosive addictive impact gambling has on the lives of countless millions, it’s time to turn off the gambling sponsorship tap and rather work with companies committed to a better future for humanity.
Enormous power vests in the in the office of the Master of the High Court. But with power comes responsibility. In recent years, there has been far too much abuse of power and far too little responsibility. The Master’s Office is responsible, inter alia, for the Guardian’s Fund, the registration and administration of trusts and liquidations (insolvencies), but it is the administration of deceased estates that has set the standard in poor service. Things have been so bad at the Master’s Office that not only have senior officials been suspended for fraud, but the Special Investigating Unit has launched a probe into possible malfeasance.
It goes without saying that the Covid-19 pandemic and successive lockdowns under the national state of disaster have impacted on service delivery right across the board, but in the case of the Master’s Office, things literally came to a grinding halt and have yet to recover.
This presents a plethora of problems for our Appleton Fiduciary Services company, but most importantly for our clients and their heirs. While we accept that lockdown has created a unique set of challenges, what we cannot accept is the lack of care, professionalism and attention that has come to characterise elements of the Master’s Office. This is not the case across the board and there are still some cases of exemplary service, but this begs the question: why is it that some staff provide good service in some Master’s Offices across the country, when many others in the same office not? The capricious nature of service at the Master’s Office disadvantages the poorest of the poor and particularly the families of those grieving for their deceased loved ones.
All Appleton senior administrators are members of the Fiduciary Institute of South Africa (FISA) and have been working closely with the Institute to try and find immediate and suitable solutions to the crises in the Master’s Office. The Appleton Managing Director, Tim Hughes, has engaged directly with the Minister of Justice, the Deputy Minister of Justice, Parliament’s Justice Committee and indeed the Chief Master to try and get relief for our clients. Notably, all of the above VIP stakeholders have been responsive and have undertaken to try and tackle the myriad problems besetting this key institution and for this we are grateful.
But what has become clear is that three things are lacking: leadership, dedication and systems. Leadership appears despondent and disinterested and frankly unaccountable. This has to be addressed from the top down. While some in the Master’s Office prove their dedication daily, too many in the institution are AWOL either physically or virtually. This leads to the final issue, that of appropriate systems. For some time now, Appleton and FISA have been told that new, online systems are being developed and tested that will speed up processes across the board. Instead, we have seen the entire Justice Department system being hacked and brought down.
It just isn’t good enough. South Africa and our bereaved citizens simply deserve better.
Over recent years, I have taken to car restoration as a hobby. For me, this is just one element of being a petrol head, along with doing the occasional day of track racing. But as time goes by, I realise that car restoration actually says more about my personal values, my passions, my history and my aspirations for the future. I don’t express myself through classic cars, but they do speak to me. I feel a sense of pride in their restoration and somehow believe that I am doing them justice and helping them become ‘modern classics’. I am also driven by a desire to preserve what I have built up for future generations.
All the cars I have restored reflect a particular period in my life, from memories of squeezing into the back of a family car, to viewing hand-made British classics close-up, (but never owning them), to being literally blown away by some of the incredible German automotive engineering and design that I managed to acquire in my earlier days as a stock-broker and businessman. While acknowledging the modern marvels of contemporary automotive engineering, there is something visceral, connected and aesthetically pleasing about classic cars that is worth appreciating and preserving.
Yet, frankly, some of the cars I have restored are more than challenging. My old Citroen Palais DS remains for me one of the most unusual and legendary cars ever designed and is engineered in a way that only the French can. Drive it at anything over 80km per hour, however, and the wind noise is enough to challenge even the late great Edith Piaf! Then there’s the most beautiful thing to ever to be manufactured in the English Midlands, (or certainly West Bromwich), the Jensen Interceptor. This legendary car broke some much new ground in design and engineering that it stands head and shoulders above all other British grand touring cars. The epically long bonnet, the thunderous sound of the 7,2 litre Chrysler engine and a rear window that belongs more in the Louvre rather than a garage.
But here’s the rub with the Jensen Interceptor and so many other classic cars, they were a product of their generation and in reality require more love and attention than a juvenile delinquent.
This is where values come in. While there is little room for Luddites in today’s technologically sophisticated world, the discipline of classic car restoration remind one good personal values, ethics and patience are cardinal to long-term success.
An exceptional, if not unique, correlation of factors is buffeting financial markets at the present, but we have enough experience to know how to respond and deal with these challenges.
While most of the globe is emerging and recovering from the worst of the Covid pandemic, ironically, China has been hit by a resurgence of infections and has responded in its customary authoritarian manner. China’s economic and financial centre, Shanghai, has effectively been locked down in what constitutes the most extreme measures imposed on a major Chinese city. While the omniscience of the lockdown may prove effective in stabilising public health and eradicating this spike in Covid infections, its economic impact on the Chinese and global economy is alarming. Supply chain backlogs, silicon chip shortages and shipping blockages are just a few of the knock-on effects of the Shanghai lockdown.
As the world’s major consumer of resources, the slow down in the Chinese economy will also dampen the resources super-cycle which has shielded our South African economy over the past couple of years.
This interruption of the global recovery from the economic fall-out of the Covid pandemic comes at a time when advanced economies are grappling with exceptionally high inflation rates. This after record low interest rates have been the norm for almost a decade. In other words, we have the ingredients for a bout of stagflation if central banks, treasuries and the major developed economies mismanage this period of recovery.
As if this was not enough to contend with, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has sent shock-waves through the energy supply chains in Europe and beyond, while simultaneously threatening to curtail supplies of fertiliser, grain and cooking oil. The impact of these latter factors will be felt most in developing countries and Africa in particular. This is yet another reason why South Africa must protect, grow and sustain its farming community to ensure food security now and for future generations.
Perversely, the energy crisis propelled by the Russian invasion of Ukraine has also placed a huge question mark over the roll-out of global sustainable/renewable energy policy even in the light of the commitments made to keep global warming below 1,5˚c made at the climate change CoP26 held in Glasgow in November last year.
Little surprise then, that financial markets have recently come off significantly, with bloated tech stocks being hardest hit in the re-rating.
Yet, with all this said and the myriad challenges confronting global markets, a financial correction is neither unusual, nor unhealthy. Despite the current market and currency buffeting, the challenge is to remain invested in good quality portfolios that are soundly constructed and managed for the long-term wealth protection and income of informed investors.
This is exactly what our asset managers achieve by sticking to their disciplines, no matter how strong the head winds we face.
Having recently returned from grey London and the UK, I was mindful of the customary warning on the Tube and how its mundane, monotone, repetition loses urgency and impact. Coming home, it struck me how deep and challenging the gaps are in South Africa and yet we seem not to be heeding the warnings.
Among others, I am concerned about the ‘gap’, which is more akin to a chasm, between government and business. This was illustrated most starkly in the countervailing pronouncements coming out of this week’s Mining Indaba in Cape Town.
How can it possibly be that South Africa now ranks as one of the ten least attractive mining destinations globally? The annual Fraser Institute survey is sent to some 2,000 mining, exploration and development companies globally and in its latest results, we come out 75th out of 84 jurisdictions. It makes you wonder why the Mining Indaba it still held in South Africa, but then again, Cape Town remains one of the top ten tourist destinations globally. Therein lies the story of contemporary South Africa. On the one hand, we are squandering and failing to maximise the value of our unique endowment underground and yet on the other, we are making more use of our natural beauty as a tourist destination. But why not do both?
One major reason is the failure of government to understand business, as was evidenced in the speeches made at the Indaba. Government appears to operate under the misapprehension that simply because we are abundantly endowed with mineral resources, that this will translate into economic growth, national wealth, investment and job creation. More than this, government’s mind set is that if you regulate enough, you will achieve the desired outcome of empowerment, redistribution and tackling inequality.
From my own years of experience in establishing and growing businesses, I accept fully the need for appropriate regulation, but I have never encountered regulation that propels growth, creates sustainable jobs and generates broad-based wealth. And this is the message towards which the government appears to be tone deaf: stop over-regulating business.
Rather, listen to business and acknowledge just how good, innovative and wealth accretive South African businesspeople are IF you allow them to be entrepreneurial. To return to the Mining Indaba, we are blessed with the world’s most precious minerals resources, being extracted by some of the world’s leading mining houses. Given the critical role mineral resources play on the global economy and the unique role they will have in the green economy, such as in battery technology, it is time that the South African government takes a sober look at the mining premiership table and does everything possible to avoid our relegation. But as a quick and easy starting point, just get out of the way and let us win!