The Mother City's four National First Division sides move into Cape Town Stadium

Grant Margeman of Ajax Cape Town during the Absa Premiership 2017/18 game between Ajax Cape Town and Baroka FC at Athlone Stadium, Cape Town on 24 April 2018.
Grant Margeman of Ajax Cape Town during the Absa Premiership 2017/18 game between Ajax Cape Town and Baroka FC at Athlone Stadium, Cape Town on 24 April 2018.
Image: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

The four National First Division clubs in the Cape Town area will use the Cape Town Stadium while what the city hopes will become its premier football venue in Athlone is brought back online.

Cape Town City will have to share the major stadium in metropole with Ajax Cape Town‚ Ubuntu Cape Town‚ Cape Umoya United and Stellenbosch FC as the season gets under way this weekend‚ until mid to late September when Athlone is scheduled to be up to speed after extensive work on its pitch.

That will likely put some strain on the immaculate surface that is so important to the passing game Benni McCarthy’s side like to play‚ but it will be temporary with the City of Cape Town looking to invest further in Athlone‚ while it also looks to turn the GreenPoint Athletics Stadium into a multi-sport venue‚ and assesses the viability of smaller venues like the Philippi Stadium and Vygieskraal Stadium for future use.

“We have said that Cape Town is open for football and we will be doing our best to support our National First Division sides as best we can with venues in the city‚” Councillor Stuart Diamond‚ the Mayoral Committee Member for Assets and Facilities Management told SowetanLIVE.

“We have got a vibrant soccer economy that extends beyond the first team [at clubs]‚ but also to development programmes and initiatives that keep kids out of trouble and off the streets.

“Athlone will host the four NFD teams [when it is ready]‚ but also has widespread community use with concerts and other events‚ and so we have to look at what other stadia we can bring into our portfolio.

“Our four NFD sides will each play at least 15 home games in the season‚ if you include cup competitions‚ and so that is minimum 60 games in a season.

"Even after the December break that is going to put enormous strain on the pitch.”

Diamond says the city will‚ however‚ be making significant improvements to Athlone to make it the “home of Cape Town soccer”.

“We are planning to introduce a 43-seat media space to improve broadcast opportunities from the venue‚ we will upgrade the VOX [communications equipment]‚ improve the safety and security and I’m even planning a football museum at the venue.

“We want to build it as an Athlone sports precinct‚ upgrading the fields on the outside. We want to promote Athlone as the home of Cape football.”

Diamond says that the GreenPoint Athletics Stadium‚ rebuilt at a similar time as the Cape Town Stadium next door‚ presents a viable home‚ with 4‚000 seats‚ state-of-the-art changerooms‚ good security and already fitted turnstiles.

He adds that the water crisis in Cape Town has strained the budget of the city and there is therefore not as much funding to go around to fast-track stadium development.

“We are faced with a smaller financial fiscus‚ but we need one or two venues other than Athlone to bring NFD clubs some grounds that are more affordable.

“I fully understand the clubs’ structures‚ their financial models and their challenges‚ and we want to help support them in providing affordable venues.

“Philippi Stadium is another one.

"When the lease with [Chippa United owner] Chippa Mpengesi runs out‚ hopefully the City can take that stadium back and do what is necessary to bring it online for NFD football.

"We want to also take the game to the people.”

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