Home Sport Soccer Safa-PSL tug-of-war leaves football in limbo

Safa-PSL tug-of-war leaves football in limbo

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

THE POSTPONEMENT of the PSL’s (Premier Soccer League) board of governors (BoG) meeting at the eleventh-hour on Friday meant that the 32 club owners had two extra days to refine their respective decisions about the resumption of football.

It’s been four months since professional football came a halt, following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. However, the conflict between the leaders of the beautiful game has been so brazen in recent months that the details pertaining to the resumption of the leagues have been sketchy.

Everything looked promising at first. Minister of Sport Nathi Mthethwa pleaded with the South African Football Association (Safa) and its special member – the PSL – to speak with “one voice” regarding plans to resume football.

It was appealing to the football fraternity when a task team selected by a joint liaison committee (JLC) unanimously decided the professional domestic season should resume in a ‘bio bubble’, in Gauteng, where all safety and health protocols were expected to be carried out to the tee.

The PSL were responsible for making all necessary arrangements for football to resume, considering that they had to see out the interests of all stakeholders, which include sponsors. Early last month the 32 clubs started all the required protocols to return to training.

This was authorised by Michael Murphy, who was selected as the league’s compliance officer. But as the PSL continued with their preparations for the restart, it appears as though Safa were left in the wilderness about the details – despite Mthethwa having asked the football mother body to oversee everything.

When football lovers’ hopes were raised that the game will resume, a destructive power struggle ensued – once again between the two organisations. Safa shot down the PSL’s plans for football to resume on July 18, citing the unreadiness of match officials, and they proposed the first week of August as the preferred time to restart.

Who’s to blame for the delay then? That’s the question that the football fraternity continues to ask, considering that both organisations could have ensured that preparations for the restart were done comprehensively.

Instead it appears that as soon as the PSL got the green light from the government to start training and prepare for the restart, they somewhat sidelined the fact that Safa runs all things football in the country.

The mother body, in their own right, felt like they couldn’t be undermined, didn’t they? They quickly sent an epistle to Zurich, the Fifa headquarters, proposing that the best option was for football to resume in the first week of August.

From thereon there was no turning back as Fifa agreed that the season can be completed beyond August 31. But that extension may have only brought satisfaction to the federation, considering that the PSL have stressed that the more they delay the more expensive it gets for clubs and the league. The PSL had planned to wrap up the season by August 31.

All the 32 clubs in the PSL were set to receive their last monthly grants on June 30, meaning that they have to pay standard salaries to players and staff and cover day-to-day running costs from their own pockets as long as the season continues.

Add to the fact that there’s the issue of ensuring that cubs will be responsible for doing both testing procedures for the coronavirus – the first round of testing before returning to training and 48 hours before assembling in the ‘bio bubble’.

The costs, logistics and placement of the biological safe environment are also said to be the responsibility of the clubs. It’s a huge ask for most clubs, especially those campaigning in the GladAfrica Championship who have already stressed that they have to consider salary cuts due to economic struggles.

Yesterday, Safa held a Q&A session to provide an update on officials’ match fitness as they prepare for the restart. But that could very well prove to be a futile exercise should the club owners decide to declare the season null and void during tomorrow’s BoG meeting.

If the season doesn’t resume as many had hoped, cancelling it completely remains the best option considering that it would cause all sorts of squabbles to crown champions or relegate teams. The point gaps among the teams at the top and the bottom are too close and crowning the top teams as champions and relegating clubs at the foot of the table will simply be unfair.

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