The South African soccer season may be called off in the midst of the COVID-19 if soccer bosses do not find common agreements on when to start. Both the country’s football controlling body – the South African Football Association (SAFA) and the local professional soccer league Premier Soccer League (PSL) had yet to agree on the exact date on which soccer for different leagues locally could restart.
This comes as top leagues in the world like the German’s Bundesliga have restarted – behind closed stadiums. The English Premier League (EPL) has seen teams began training in small groups with vigorous testing before and after training for Covid-19. Burnley assistant coach Ian Woan and Watford’s Adrian Mariapa are among a number of people within the soccer circle in England to have tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus after teams began training in small groups on 18 May in anticipation of a restart set for 1 June.
The main common reason and attraction for all the top leagues to want to restart is the fear of losing on big commercial TV broadcasting rights by different top commercial TV companies such as Sky Sports (England) and Multichoice/ Supersport (SA). The financial benefits for both clubs and leagues derived from these TV commercial big money deals are behind the clash of interests even here in South Africa even in the midst of the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis. In England Manchester United just announced a massive loss totaling $132 million as the coronavirus effects on both big and small teams as well as the leagues globally becomes serious.
In South Africa both the South African Soccer Association (SAFA) and the professional league – Premier Soccer League (PSL) are yet to agree on when the games are likely to restart. The PSL, unlike SAFA, is in charge of the professional league and has a multibillion TV broadcasting rights with Supersport Multichoice. The much anticipated meeting between PSL’s Board Of Governors (BOG) and SAFA big bosses was still to materialize . SAFA is believed to be in favour of a level 1 restart or a complete cancellation of the season if the pandemic does not show any slow down in the next coming month. And on the other hand the PSL wants to be guided by the government’s easing down of the lockdown phases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, and in particular targeting stage 3 as a potential phase for a restart with games to be played behind closed doors just like what the Bundesliga and the EPL have done. At the time of going to print the Bundesliga was going into weekend two since reopening. Both PSL and FIFA are working with Minister Nathi Mthethwa of the sorts, arts and culture department to see when best football can restart.
Dr Irvin Khoza, chairman of the PSL told the City Prss newspaper recently that the department of health would guide the league on when it would be safe to restart the games. FIFA has sent letters to all its member leagues and associations globally indicating that they needed to indicate no later by 31 July when they could restart their seasons.
“Before we can say whether we have a plan or not, there are two considerations to make: acing lives first and foremost, and preserving the livelihoods that we can as a business. The the predicament is that only the department of health can make that call on whether it is conducive to play or not,” said Khoza. Danny Jordaan, who also indicated that they were trying to find common grounds with the PSL on the issue, said that they would also be guided by the government on when best to restart.
“SAFA will work with the government led by the minister of sports, arts and culture minister Nathi Mthethwa on this process,” read a SAFA statement.
Just like in Englang and other big leagues in Europe, failure for a restart by the PSL could esykante in a financial massive loss teams with big wage bills to pay for players and other operational costs. But even when played behind doors the would be a big – even bigger viewership for matchday as people are watching behind closed doors.