July 17 2010 at 07:44AM Get IOL on your
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By Sameer Naik
It's official. On Sunday, the iconic stadium which hosted the opening game of the World Cup and last Sunday's final reverts to being the FNB Stadium - but it might be up to the High Court to decide for how long.
The R3.4 billion showpiece calabash in Joburg, which will forever be known as Soccer City to million of overseas soccer fans - and indeed to most GPS users until their software is updated - will now be known as the FNB Stadium for the next four years.
First National Bank spokeswoman Vicki Trehaeven said the stadium, which has been known as FNB Stadium since its construction in 1987, had been temporarily renamed Soccer City only to comply with Fifa's demands.
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"During the World Cup, in compliance with Fifa requirements, FNB agreed that the name of the stadium would be changed for a period commencing three months prior to the opening match of the competition and one week after the closing match," said Trehaeven.
Last week, as the country prepared to host the final of the hugely successful 2010 World Cup, reports began emerging that Stadium Management South Africa, the company which will operate the stadium, would name it the National Stadium after the tournament.
On Friday night, Jacques Grobbelaar, a director of the company, confirmed this,
"We are certainly not aware that the name of Soccer City will change to FNB Stadium on Sunday," he said.
"As far as we are concerned, we have acquired the rights to the stadium since 2009. These rights include advertising, naming and sponsorship rights.
"The ownership of land had changed and we were awarded rights by the City of Joburg.
"Nevertheless, we will take it up with our legal team so that we can get a better understanding of FNB's legal stance," said Grobbelaar.
"From our side, we understand that Soccer City's name will be changed to the National Stadium, but we are working hard with our legal team, so we will see what happens," he said.
Indeed, when tickets for the upcoming Test between the Springboks and the All Blacks on August 21 went on sale, the tickets referred to the FNB Stadium as the National Stadium, as did advertisements for the game put out by the Golden Lions Rugby Union.
But Trehaeven wants the organisers to advertise the rugby game under the stadium's proper name.
"They are contractually obligated to advertise the upcoming rugby game under the new name," she said. "These rights were merely suspended in the lead-up to and during the World Cup.
"In keeping with its 'clean stadium' requirements, there can be no commercial association with any stadium linked to the World Cup, and hence the name had to change."
Trehaeven added that a deal had been concluded in early 2007 regarding the future naming rights of the stadium.