Sundowns upset about fixture that benefits Pirates in title race

Hlompho Kekana of Mamelodi Sundowns and Ntsikelelo Nyauza of Orlando Pirates during the Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on January 13, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Hlompho Kekana of Mamelodi Sundowns and Ntsikelelo Nyauza of Orlando Pirates during the Absa Premiership match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on January 13, 2018 in Pretoria, South Africa.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City will both write to the Premier Soccer League asking them to reconsider scheduling the two teams’ Nedbank Cup quarterfinal on Sunday‚ April 1.

Both teams had requested to have their quarterfinal at Cape Town Stadium to be played on Saturday‚ March 31‚ but this was turned down by the PSL.

Sundowns‚ a point clear of Orlando Pirates in the league title race‚ had asked for the Saturday fixture to have an extra day’s recuperation ahead of their Absa Premiership game against Chippa United at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday‚ April 4.

Pirates will not be in Nedbank Cup action‚ having already been eliminated‚ in the weekend before meeting Bloemfontein Celtic in the PSL on April 4‚ for which‚ after a Fifa international date‚ they will return fresh from two weeks without a competitive match.

The PSL’s decision to schedule a big game like a City-Sundowns cup quarterfinal on a Sunday is unusual as‚ for the past few seasons it has become the norm for high priority games to largely be assigned to Saturdays to maximise TV viewership figures.

SowetanLIVE is informed that senior Sundowns officials have discussed the PSL taking a decision that disadvantages Downs‚ and therefore favours Pirates‚ in the league race. Sundowns are expected to release a statement on Friday.

Cape Town City are all but out of the title race‚ but still trying to finish as high as they can in the league.

City chairman John Comitis said he was “very disappointed with the PSL and very dissatisfied with the outcome of the fixturing”.

“We have made our case well in time to be included in the grouping of the Saturday matches.

“And we gave a time slot that would not clash with the the other two games at 3.30pm and 8.15pm‚ which would make us play at 6pm and they would have a bonanza back-to-back on a Saturday.

“Our two over-riding reasons for this have been that precedents have been set for religious holidays. And we said that our players would deserve at least one of the holidays (Good Friday or Easter) off.

“If you’ve got a Sunday game you’ve got to train on Friday. Our second reason was that we had a game on Wednesday‚ and it would give us one more day’s preparation.”

Sundowns and City were informed that the PSL’s reasoning for their match being scheduled on the Sunday was that Kaizer Chiefs against Baroka FC at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday night at 8.15pm‚ a bigger TV viewership fixture‚ had to be at prime time on Saturday.

That Saturday’s early quarterfinal at 3.30pm involves Bloemfontein Celtic away against third-placed PSL team Maritzburg United‚ who have a league match to play on Tuesday‚ ruling them out of a Sunday cup match.

But that does not explain why the 6pm quarterfinal between Free State Stars and First Division Ubuntu Cape Town could not be scheduled on the Sunday.

Sundowns communications manager Thulani Thuswa was reached by SowetanLIVE‚ and said he would come back with a comment‚ but did not. Attempts to reach him again on Friday morning were unsuccessful.

PSL communications manager Luxolo September was adamant that the reason given by the PSL had not been that Chiefs-Baroka needed to be viewed at prime time on Saturday.

“That’s nonsense. Whoever gave them that reason‚ it’s not true‚” he said.

“According to the Nedbank Cup rules‚ read together with the NSL handbook‚ the organising committee of the league decides the date and kickoff time. That's rule 7.5 of the Nedbank Cup rules.

“Of course there is a lot of consultation that happens. It doesn’t necessarily mean the game will be at the time requested (by a club).”

September said that‚ as far as Sundowns’ request to play on Saturday: “We don’t speak to the away clubs. Only the home clubs.

“It doesn’t matter what the clubs requested. The recommendation is taken into account‚ but it's not binding.

“What if other clubs also requested Saturday? So now‚ our member clubs are not equal.

“Free State Stars are in the championship battle. So what should we do? Who are we trying to advantage and disadvantage.”

Free State Stars are also in the title race‚ albeit as rank outside contenders.

The team that fought relegation last season are in fourth place‚ but six points behind Sundowns‚ and five behind Pirates‚ having played a game more than Downs.

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