Royal AM win another round of their standoff with the PSL as playoffs are stopped again

17 June 2021 - 13:17
By sazi hadebe AND Sazi Hadebe
A general view of the the PSL headquarters in Parktown, Johannesburg.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images A general view of the the PSL headquarters in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Royal AM have once again succeeded in stopping the start of the premiership playoffs after the Premier Soccer League grudgingly acceded to the Durban club's demand to halt the match that was to get under way in Gqeberha on Thursday afternoon.

The playoff schedule was to get under way with a clash between Richards Bay FC and Chippa United‚ but Royal AM insisted that the PSL abide by the order given by acting judge Nyathi AJ of the Gauteng high court on Monday night and call off the games.

The lower-tier side had given the PSL an ultimatum of 10am on Thursday morning to suspend the matches or face further legal action.

“Be that as it may, and due to the dispute on the correct interpretation of the Nyathi AJ order raised in your letter (set on June 16), we (PSL lawyers) are instructed that the commencement of the 2021 GladAfrica promotion/relegation play off matches between Chippa United FC and Richards Bay FC, scheduled for 3pm this afternoon (Thursday), will be postponed.

“Our client (PSL) will communicate to all affected clubs shortly. This is in no manner whatsoever an admission that your client’s (Royal AM) position is correct — it is not,” the PSL lawyers concluded in their two-page letter to Royal AM on Thursday.

Royal AM had threatened to take the matter back to court if the PSL had gone ahead and started the playoffs on Thursday afternoon.

Royal are appealing against Gauteng high court deputy judge president Roland Sutherland's verdict‚ which upheld an arbitration award of three points to promotion rivals Sekhukhune United.

Sutherland’s order made Sekhukhune winners of the GladAfrica Championship‚ a decision that saw Sekhukhune gain automatic promotion to the DStv Premiership and also in the process bumped Royal AM down to the promotion playoffs.

Nyathi's order suspended the playoffs pending the application brought by Royal AM‚ who wanted the court to grant them leave to appeal against Sutherland's order issued on Saturday.

In a letter sent to the PSL lawyers on Wednesday and seen by TimesLIVE‚ Royal AM demanded that the league must‚ by no later than 10am on June 17 2021 give, among other things‚ an indication that it would “make a public statement indicating that it will comply with the law that no playoffs will be played in breach of Nyathi AJ court order”.

The Durban club added that if the PSL failed to respond positively to their letter‚ “Royal AM will be left with no option but to approach a court of law to obtain the appropriate redress and/or relief‚ without further notification to the recipients (PSL) of this letter. Such relief will include a punitive order of costs against all culpable individuals personally.”

When judge Nyathi granted Royal AM relief on Monday night‚ his order included that: “Pending the final determination of Royal AM's application for leave to appeal and/or appeal the commencement of the GladAfrica promotion/relegation playoffs is suspended.”

The league on Tuesday wrote to Sutherland requesting that Royal AM's application for leave to appeal be heard “as a matter of extreme urgency”. The PSL‚ also on Tuesday‚ lodged an application for leave to appeal against the entire order granted by judge Nyathi.

But while awaiting the outcome of their application to court‚ the PSL continued with plans for the start of the playoffs‚ an event that is fully funded by the league.

After Royal AM's match against Richards Bay FC‚ which was scheduled to kick off the playoffs on Tuesday‚ was cancelled after Nyathi's order on Monday‚ the PSL changed the fixture list. Chippa were then instructed to play Richards Bay in Gqeberha at 3pm on Thursday.

But after Royal AM’s letter, it would seem the PSL has been once gain forced to go back to court to seek permission to start the playoffs.

“In order to resolve the dispute regarding the proper interpretation of the Nyathi J order, our client intends to apply today (Thursday) to the high court on an urgent basis for an order declaring that section 18(1) applies so that the operation and execution of the Nyathi AJ order was suspended by its application for leave to appeal.

“In the alternative, our client will ask that the operation and execution of the Nyathi AJ order be suspended in terms of section 18(2) if it were found to be an interlocutory order not having the effect of a final judgment,” the PSL lawyers Webber Wentzel responded to Royal AM’s letter.

With the play-offs now postponed for the second time this week, the PSL stands to suffer huge financial losses as the event is fully funded by the league.

Richards Bay had travelled to Gqeberha and was ready to play Chippa United on Thursday while television cameras were already set to broadcast the game live by the time the PSL responded to Royal AM’s demand that the games be stopped until the court gives a final order.