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Thu Apr 24 21:27:09 SAST 2014

PSL is tasty pap, not sushi

Carlos Amato | 11 November, 2010 23:200 Comments

Carlos Amato: Finally, a Soweto derby that's hype-able! For two or three years now, South African football's grandest fixture has seemed like a lethargic tussle over a droopy lettuce between two herbivorous dinosaurs stuck in the 21st century.

No longer. There's menace and meaning in the derby again. Notwithstanding their midweek hiccups, both Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates are proving the power of persisting with a decent coach, and discharging their duty to add spice to the PSL race.

Whenever Amakhosi and the Buccaneers are both in the groove, the whole South African football experience is more fun. The wafting aroma of pap en vleis around the stadium is more mouthwatering, the parping of vuvuzelas more tuneful, the summer sunshine more brilliant.

Soccer City will be jam-packed tomorrow - by half-time, at least. The league and the city of Jo'burg must stop playing one-twos with the buck and deliver an intelligent traffic management plan on the day.

In their defence, neither party has the power to change the stubborn preference among many diski fans for leaving late and missing the first half - or not leaving the sofa at all.

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth this week about the fall in Premier League attendances - with the doubling of the minimum ticket price, from R20 to R40, emerging as scapegoat number one.

Times are tough, and the hike showed that the PSL's well-fed bosses are somewhat out of touch with the brutal budget of the average fan. They should have observed that the mamas outside the stadium gates are not selling pap en sushi nestled in the cleavages of lingerie models.

But let's be honest about the limitations of the PSL product. It's pap, not sushi. The fans who willingly miss the first half of a typical PSL game do so in the knowledge that they're unlikely to miss much.

Those fans with Supersport subscriptions are treated to a vast buffet of the world's best football every week, and all the terrestrial viewers have seen more than enough Champions League and World Cup football to be demanding about quality.

So no amount of traffic management or enthusiastic marketing is going to pack out our stadiums for non-derby games. There is a chicken-and-egg scenario - a game at a full ground is a better game - but there's also an inescapable ceiling to the league's crowd-pulling power.

This is not just a South African problem: it applies in every middling league. Portugal and Norway are both football-bedonnered nations, and Norway is rich, but sparsely attended games are commonplace in both their leagues. And as in South Africa, the money comes from TV, so local blackouts are not an option.

The crowd figures can only grow slowly, in parallel with the quality of the product. In the meantime, the league should give proper respect to smaller clubs who are cultivating small but fervent support bases.

Maritzburg United are right to be furious about being exiled to Chatsworth for next weekend's "home" Telkom Knockout semifinal against Orlando Pirates.

No convincing reasons have been given - especially since Pirates will visit Harry Gwala stadium, a cosy, atmospheric 12000-seater ground, just a few days later in the league.

The PSL's decision stinks of abuse of power.

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