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Royal AM in move to buy Bloem Celtic’s top-flight franchise — source

13 August 2021 - 17:08 By Mahlatse Mphahlele and Marc Strydom
Royal AM have thus far failed to be reinstated as 2020-21 GladAfrica Championship winners via a protracted courtroom battle. File photo.
Royal AM have thus far failed to be reinstated as 2020-21 GladAfrica Championship winners via a protracted courtroom battle. File photo.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Moves are being made for Royal AM to buy the Premier Division status of Bloemfontein Celtic, a source with knowledge of the matter has said.

However, Durban club Royal's CEO, Sinky Mnisi, has denied knowledge of such a deal. 

TimesLIVE has been informed that Royal owner Shauwn Mkhize made a strong approach to buy Celtic from the Free State club’s owner, Max Tshabalala.

A source, who did not want to be named, indicated the deal had gone so far as to now just require approval by the Premier Soccer League’s (PSL) board of governors.

The source indicated that the deal could also involve former Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC owner Lawrence Mulaudzi buying Royal’s GladAfrica Championship (National First Division, or NFD) status.

Royal AM have been involved in a protracted and at times messy legal battle to be reinstated as GladAfrica champions but have suffered several court defeats.

This follows an arbitration award of three points to then-second-placed NFD team Sekhukhune United, for a match in February involving Polokwane City. This led to Limpopo team Sekhukhune being promoted to the Premiership as NFD champions, and Royal were bumped down to the promotion-relegation playoffs.

Royal had lost in an application at the South Gauteng High Court to overturn the arbitration, then had their leave to appeal against that decision dismissed.

They suffered another setback in that battle when they were found guilty on all charges on Wednesday night in their disciplinary committee hearing for failing to honour their four playoff fixtures. Sentencing is expected on August 31.

But Royal are still applying to take the promotion matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal and have vowed to go to the Constitutional Court and Court of Arbitration for Sport should that fail, a process that could take many months to conclude.

Free State businessman Tshabalala, who has had well-documented financial difficulties, has often had Celtic on the market.

In September 2018, a deal fell through to sell the club to potential new buyers Sinki Leshabane and Dr Moeketsi Mosola. This was apparently due to a debt of R43m owed by Tshabalala to the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and a complex situation of two companies being registered as Celtic‚ which scared off the buyers.

In May 2020, TS Galaxy owner Tim Sukazi was confident enough of an agreement to buy Celtic that he announced publicly that a deal had been concluded in principle. That sale also never materialised, and Sukazi later purchased the top-flight franchise of Highlands Park.

Mulaudzi bought the Premiership franchise of 99-year-old Bidvest Wits ahead of the 2020-21 season, renaming the side Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila and relocating it to Limpopo. However, he soon ran into well-documented financial troubles and sold the Premiership franchise to Abram Sello, who has renamed that team Marumo Gallants.

A purchase of the status of Celtic might be fraught with problems for a buyer. The Free State club will be affected by a two-window Fifa transfer ban handed to Phunya Sele Sele over the club’s failure to settle outstanding debts to former goalkeeper Patrick Tignyemb.

Royal CEO Mnisi, reached for comment, denied any knowledge of a potential deal to buy Celtic.

“I don’t know anything about that. It would be wrong for me to comment on something that I don’t know. The whole of today I have been busy with the attorney,” Mnisi said.

Mulaudzi could not be reached for comment on Friday afternoon, nor could Tshabalala. PSL acting CEO Mato Madlala could also not be reached.