As exco meets on Monday, some clubs fear PSL will not open stadiums yet
To the consternation of some clubs, a Premier Soccer League (PSL) executive committee (exco) meeting on Monday is apparently not guaranteed to rubber-stamp a return of fans to stadiums this week, or even the remainder of the 2021-22 season.
Two DStv Premiership club owners, who did not want to be named, were frustrated at the snails' pace the PSL has taken to allow ticket sales after President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement last Tuesday to lift the 2,000 limit at sports events, increasing it to 50% of the capacity of stadiums.
Other major sports codes reacted the morning after last week’s announcement. Rugby franchises immediately advertised tickets for the past weekend's United Rugby Championship matches, and Cricket SA sold 3,000 additional tickets for Wednesday's ODI between SA and Bangladesh at SuperSport Park.
It is understood Premiership clubs are split on a return. TimesLIVE is reliably informed that of the big three clubs Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns will be bitterly disappointed if the PSL opts not to allow crowds back immediately.
Orlando Pirates' position is not known, but many smaller clubs are apparently still balking at the costs of a crowd.
The PSL opted not to allow crowds of fewer than 2,000 because clubs felt they could not recover the costs of hosting a crowd that size. Even at 50% capacity, for some teams not known for drawing a crowd pre-pandemic, the cost of Covid-19 compliance will make the exercise unprofitable. Clubs have to ensure attending fans are vaccinated or have a Covid-19 negative test lass than 72 hours old.
A decision to continue to not allow crowds back may meet a hostile reception and be considered as short-sighted and embarrassing for the PSL. The EFF and National Football Supporters’ Association had already organised marches calling for crowds in soccer stadiums when SA was at the 2,000 limit.
There have been reports the PSL has decided before Monday’s exco meeting to not allow crowds until next season.
However, one club owner, who is also an exco member, said: “The meeting is about returning to football, and no-one's called me to try to persuade me either way.
“My opinion is we should go back as soon as possible. End of story.”
The owner said they had not heard Premiership clubs were split on the issue, but said it was a plausible scenario.
“The only reason I hear the rumours and discussions about it is because it is onerous financially to open the gates when you have to do the monitoring [of vaccinations and Covid-19 tests].
“If a club only gets crowds of about 3,000 normally, they still won't make a profit because of those rocketing costs.
“Even with that, soccer needs to get crowds back, even just as a first step of getting it back to normal. The lack of crowds is hurting the product.”
Another club owner said they were unaware of the PSL having made a decision on the issue ahead of Monday's exco meeting.
“I haven't heard that from other people, but I have seen the reports to that effect in the media,” they said.
The owner said they had heard some clubs were opposed to a return.
“When football turned down the 2,000 limit without much opposition, that stopped the admin guys being prepared for the 50%,” they said.
“Now the 50% has been allowed, and the league has delayed a meeting by three or four days, held exclusively by the exco. Obviously it's going to be a problem in the sense the league has not been looking at what protocols to put in place.
“My fear is that, according to what we’ve seen on social media and heard on the ground, if the league decides against crowds, fans may try to force their way into stadiums. Then it will incur another security cost.”
The owner said their club relies on crowds not just for gate-taking incomes, but also activations and marketing opportunities at matches.
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