Cape Town council react with shock to Benni McCarthy's open letter

McCarthy’s letter was released in a statement on Thursday in response to City being forced to play their home Absa Premiership game against Maritzburg United in Durban on Tuesday due to the unavailability of Cape Town Stadium.
McCarthy’s letter was released in a statement on Thursday in response to City being forced to play their home Absa Premiership game against Maritzburg United in Durban on Tuesday due to the unavailability of Cape Town Stadium.
Image: GALLO IMAGES

The City of Cape Town City has denied prioritising rugby and cricket over soccer in response to a heated open letter by Cape Town City FC coach Benni McCarthy.

McCarthy’s letter was released in a statement on Thursday in response to City being forced to play their home Absa Premiership game against Maritzburg United in Durban on Tuesday due to the unavailability of Cape Town Stadium.

The stadium is unavailable because it is hosting the Cape Town leg of the World Rugby Sevens next weekend.

A drought-affected pitch at Athlone Stadium is unplayable and Newlands Rugby Stadium have informed the council they are also working on their pitch.

Stuart Diamond‚ Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management‚ said he was “shocked” at the contents of McCarthy’s letter.

“We have an open-door policy with Cape Town City and Ajax Cape Town and the three National First Division clubs‚” Diamond said.

“We are there to give them compliant stadia. City has two‚ as per the PSL rules.

“I especially want to raise Alderman JP Smith who deals a lot with the amateur clubs. We have spent a lot of time sitting with our roleplayers and stakeholders‚ such as Safa-Cape Town‚ on how we grow the sport and get better facilities for them.

“And we’re putting better plans in action.

“I think that’s what shocked me the most about Benni’s letter. [City owner] John Comitis has my phone number. And they’ve always phoned.

“Last year‚ for example‚ they didn’t have training facilities.

“So we sat down with them and took them through the process that they would have to undergo to apply for grounds owned by the city. Which they have done and grounds were granted‚ and hopefully by January they can use those.

“So we’ve been working closely with the club and I suppose that’s the frustration with the letter.”

Diamond said the council have a responsibility to make Cape Town Stadium profitable‚ and events such as the World Sevens are crucial to this.

“What we’ve done‚ and in conversations with various companies such as Stadium Management in Johannesburg‚ is to put on a package.

“We realised we need solid anchor tenants‚ but also to buffer those up with events such as big concerts.

“One of the big strategic events is the Cape Town Sevens. It draws in 100 000 spectators and can generate millions for the city. It is televised around the world so has tourism spinoffs.

“So‚ yes‚ while it is unfortunate our football clubs are negatively impacted it isn’t something that the clubs who had fixtures this week would not have known about.

“I am surprised that John did not try to write to the PSL and explain the situation‚ and ask for a switch to make this game the away game against Maritzburg United‚ then play the home game later in the season.”

Diamond said SA Rugby take over Cape Town Stadium for the Sevens from Monday‚ meaning City’s Tuesday match had to find another venue.

He said Cape Town’s worst drought in recorded history had played havoc with the condition of pitches at alternate venues in the city.

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