PSL unhappy that Safa is a stumbling block for a return to play – sources

05 June 2020 - 14:03 By Mahlatse Mphahlele And Marc Strydom
Premier Soccer League chairman Irvin Khoza addresses a press conference at the League's headquarters in Parktown, Johannesburg, on Thursday May 3 2018.
Premier Soccer League chairman Irvin Khoza addresses a press conference at the League's headquarters in Parktown, Johannesburg, on Thursday May 3 2018.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) is frustrated that it has plans for a safe return to football that it would like to put to the government‚ but that it feels the South African Football Association (Safa) is proving a stumbling block to these‚ sources have said.

Four sources at PSL clubs told TimesLIVE that league chairman Irvin Khoza reported back on his frustration to a PSL Board of Governors (BoG) meeting on Thursday. They said Khoza reported that the league has plans to take to the government on options for a safe return to play‚ but that Safa has been resistant to these.

The sources said the frustration was also expressed unanimously by the club officials representing the 32 Absa Premiership and GladAfrica Championship teams in the BoG meeting.

They said the PSL feels it is necessary to circumvent mother body Safa to get the ball rolling quicker.

A joint PSL and Safa task team reported back to the joint liaison committee (JLC) between the bodies on Monday on the findings of an investigation into conditions for a return to play of professional football. The PSL has been suspended since March 16 in response to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent government national lockdown.

Safa put out a statement after the JLC meeting that both the association’s president‚ Danny Jordaan‚ and Khoza will meet with sports minister Nathi Mthethwa to lay out football's plans for a return to play. This meeting is still to take place.

The joint task team's findings were discussed by a PSL executive committee meeting on Tuesday and Thursday’s league BoG meeting.

The sources said that the league’s task teams have followed international models‚ and learned from global mistakes‚ on plans for a return to play for football clubs of first individual training‚ then small groups‚ then full squads in distanced fitness training‚ then 10 days of contact practice.

A source said one of the medical experts reported back that the PSL’s plans were “better than the Bundesliga’s”. The German top-flight returned to play on May 16.

They said‚ at any rate‚ the current level three lockdown rules allow for a return to training for contact sports teams‚ so long as they are not in hotpots. The government has suggested that teams based in hotspots could be allowed to travel outside them to resume training.

The sources said what was discussed by PSL’s BoG was that Safa has continued to resist a return to football.

They said the league has plans for measures including testing and then quarantining players in hotels in bio-safe environments and completing the 2019-20 season in a single city.

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa‚ announcing the new level three regulations on Saturday‚ said that each federation had 14 days to report back on a safe plan to return to training.

Training is still not allowed in Covid-19 hotspots. But the government has indicated that professional athletes and teams have leeway to travel to train outside hotspots.

One club official said they have begun the Covid-19 testing and sanitisation processes in anticipation of a return to training but are frustrated that a go-ahead has not been given yet.

Communication between Safa and the PSL‚ at a time when football is in crisis from the enforced shutdown in play‚ had broken down‚ with league acting CEO Mato Madlala having told TimesLIVE on May 1 that the JLC had not met since before the lockdown began on March 27.

Subsequently‚ following a call from Mthethwa that Safa and the PSL needed to report back to him with a single voice‚ the JLC did meet on Tuesday‚ May 13‚ where it was resolved that a joint task team would over two weeks investigate conditions for a return to football.

Safa communications director Dominic Chimhavi said the association would be surprised by any notion by the PSL that the mother body is a stumbling block to a return to play as Monday’s JLC meeting had been positive.

“Even the person who moved for the last motion [For Khoza and Jordaan to report together to Mthethwa] in the joint liaison committee meeting was [Kaizer Chiefs owner and PSL exco member] Kaizer Motaung‚ and it was supported by Natasha [Tsichlas‚ Safa’s technical committee head]. So it is perplexing to say Safa is frustrating them‚” Chimhavi said.

“Because it was a positive meeting. And we came out with a joint statement.”

PSL acting CEO Madlala could not be reached for comment.