PSL can play on behind closed doors, says sports minister Nathi Mthethwa
Minister of sports Nathi Mthethwa says the Premier Soccer League (PSL) can continue being played behind closed doors - but only under stringent health and safety guidelines that are in line with disaster management requirements.
The PSL suspended this week’s fixtures in response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s declaration of a state of disaster as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa.
Speaking after meeting various sporting federations in Pretoria on Tuesday, Mthethwa said the football programme could continue.
"As we speak, they can have their match tomorrow with no spectators," he said.
"Even if we are going to reach a point where there may be no matches, it will be gradually phased in. But there is an obligation on them to follow to the letter the health and hygiene protocols as outlined by the department of health.
"They have said that players will wash their hands ... using water and soap. They have said on their own that when the match starts, there will be no handshakes as per tradition. They also know that you will need sanitisers.
"What we are emphasising here is when players are celebrating, they must do it individually. It is a change of behaviour because if we don’t do that we will be spreading the pandemic."
Mthethwa added that football can be the voice to help spread the message and educate people about the pandemic.
"We need the [PSL] chairman [Irvin Khoza] and others in the leadership positions in sport to raise their voice against this pandemic ... They will continue with their matches without spectators and finish the season. The most important thing for us is that when they do that, they will be spreading the message to fight against this pandemic - so that there is no confusion."
Before the announcement was made, Khoza argued during his address in the meeting that there will be problems if the season is not played until the end.
"I raised some of the issues in my press conference on Monday, which relates to promotion and relegation – how you determine that. There are a lot of headaches that go with it, so let us act in a way that will assist us [in] solving the problem.
"I am still saying that don’t remove the voice to assist in conveying the message about this pandemic."
However, SA Football Association (Safa) president Danny Jordaan seemed to not agree with the decision to play matches behind closed doors.
"I am meeting the chair [Khoza] tomorrow [Wednesday] and our position is that this has been tried before," said Jordaan.
"Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta tested positive for the virus and the whole team of Real Madrid was put into quarantine. So we have to look at the issues of health and safety for the players, but also the other important contractual obligations."