Is big money killing PSL? League will be a 3-horse race
BIG money is turning the 16-team Premier Soccer League into an exclusive three-club monopoly.
This was the scathing accusation delivered by SuperSport United's Gavin Hunt and Jose Ferreira.
Hunt, a three-time league championship winner with United, and Ferreira, the club's chief operating officer, were speaking against the backdrop of yet another massive sponsorship for glamour clubs Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs.
They said that Vodacom's "plus-minus R1 billion" deal - in the words of Pirates boss Irvin Khoza - over five years with Bucs and Chiefs, and mining magnate Patrice Motsepe's continuing patronage of Mamelodi Sundowns, believed to be in the millions each season, would turn the rest of the league into also-rans.
Vodacom refused to reveal the size of its sponsorship of Pirates and Chiefs, but marketing head Enzo Scarcella said the clubs could anticipate making more than R1bn "as the turnover of the cellphone industry is R100bn a year".
Hunt and Ferreira were worried that the money in Chiefs, Pirates and Sundowns would distort the player market and that United could lose players to the three clubs.
Over the past four years, Sundowns have signed four big-name players from Matsatsantsa: Siboniso Gaxa, Katlego Mphela, Elias Pelembe and Anthony Laffor.
The Buccaneers snatched Teko Modise in 2008, while Amakhosi are set to lure captain Morgan Gould for next season.
Ferreira said Vodacom's money had guaranteed the Soweto giants would have no competition in the market, with "other PSL teams just making up the numbers".
Clubs were also up in arms last year when the Telkom Charity Cup was scrapped to make way for the Carling Black Label tournament, which is restricted to Pirates and Chiefs.
"It is not sustainable to have these sponsorship deals and we will never compete. It irks me when I hear (Chiefs' chairman) Kaizer Motaung say SuperSport is the richest team in the country. I'm sure he's changed his mind about that now," said Ferreira.
He said it was difficult to keep their star players, but added that money could not guarantee success, citing Sundowns as an example.
Hunt, whose side will take on Sundowns in the Nedbank Cup final on Saturday, also took a swipe at Pirates for their big splash on new players. "In my opinion Moroka Swallows, who finished second on the log table, won the league considering the shoe-string budget they had for the season."