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Coronavirus brings Safa and NSL together

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Covid-19 brought about a day-to-day working relationship between the hitherto warring organisations, Safa and the NSL.

Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa. Picture: Siyabulela Duda

CAPE TOWN – The coronavirus pandemic has devastated football worldwide but in South Africa it has achieved what everyone else has failed to do – it has brought about a day-to-day working relationship between the hitherto warring organisations South African Football Association (Safa) and the National Soccer League (NSL).

It all started six weeks ago when Minister of Sport Nathi Mthethwa sent a warning to Safa and the NSL. They were to speak with one voice when presenting a case for the return of football in the country.

On Sunday, Mthethwa sent a letter requesting Safa to provide a plan to show how its compliance team will monitor the Premier Soccer League activities as well as any other football activities that will resume under lockdown.

The letter added that the details should include the names of the compliance monitoring team as well as dates, venues, time and clubs to be visited.

It was just another stark reminder that the two parties cannot work independently of each other if they want government approval to resume football.

The NSL, which is made up of the PSL and National First Division, has been working feverishly behind the scenes to resume play in the two professional leagues.

In his letter, Mthethwa says the PSL was advised to submit its blueprint to Safa. The national federation will then run the rule over it before submitting it to the Department of Sport, which will then devise its plans to monitor the entire process around staging matches.

Safa, as the national federation, supplies matchday officials for all games. Now with the advent of Covid-19, Safa is also required to appoint a compliance officer at each venue. Although the PSL also appointed a compliance officer, he or she will not be part of the official matchday contingent.

Well-known sports lawyer and PSL legal counsel Michael Murphy was appointed as the PSL’s compliance officer. Safa’s chief medical officer Dr Thulani Ngwenya was named Safa’s compliance officer.

Safa’s acting chief executive Tebogo Motlanthe. Picture: BackpagePix

Safa’s acting chief executive Tebogo Motlanthe was moved to remark recently when trying to clear any confusion that may result: “As you know, the PSL cannot be a referee and a player at the same time.”

Mthethwa has reminded Safa that it has to “play an overarching role in monitoring compliance” during the resumption of all football activities.

The PSL and NSL had attempted to meet yesterday but there were too many issues still hanging in the air.

A source did not disclose what the issues were, but it was likely that by this time, the all-important matter of the much-vaunted ‘bio-bubble’ venue has not yet been decided.

The bio-bubble brainchild came about because teams could not fly to play matches around the country. As a result, it was necessary to have all the league’s teams in camp in the same town.

The PSL and Safa have now decided to meet on Wednesday when both parties will be better equipped with information that makes it possible for the process to take a step or two closer to the resumption of football.