Bloemfontein Celtic players face salary cuts due to Covid-19

Bloemfontein Celtic have become the first Premier Soccer League club to concede they might have to ask their players to accept salary cuts as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis.

As world sport has ground to a halt due to the deadly novel coronavirus, with top European clubs announcing salary cuts or freezes, Celtic owner Max Tshabalala has revealed to Sowetan his already financially distressed club might not be able to afford to pay full salaries at the end of this month.

Tshabalala, a Mangaung businessman who two years ago put the club up for sale as he accepted it was too costly to run, says his cash reserves are now fast depleting due to Covid-19.

He heavily relies on his property business (Ikaheng Projects) and the monthly PSL grant of R2,5m to fund Phunya Sele Sele.

Celtic's financial woes in recent years have been reported widely in the media as well as Tshabalala's struggles to pay salaries, which in 2018 led to protests by fans and a strike by players and technical staff.

"Let me be honest with you... because of this virus now, things [are] more difficult for us," Tshabalala told Sowetan.

"When I say us, I mean teams who don't have sponsors. A team that doesn't have a sponsor relies on the business of the chairman. Now my company is trying to develop us. We are developing a lot of properties around the Free State and all over the country.

"But now we are not working [because of the lockdown], that means the team doesn't have money; we won't have money even to pay for other things. The grant from the PSL [R2.5m per month] is just 55% to 60%. The rest of the money is coming from a supporting company. So it is very difficult for us really, that I can't deny it."

The Celtic boss, however, said everything will be decided during their meeting with the players if the situation worsens.

"The income and the remuneration of players is a personal issue. Those players are looking after their families and stuff like that.

"If this thing is ongoing we can't help it, we have to sit down with the players and have a formal meeting whereby we talk. Like when we started when you sign a contract and we need to discuss. Fortunately, they are also seeing what is happening around the world. We just pray that we get a solution."

It's unclear if Celtic are able to meet their current financial obligations after previous challenges, with a source yesterday claiming some players may not have received their full pay, an allegation dismissed vehemently by the club.

"They find themselves in a difficult situation now. Some of their players were not paid in March, and we don't know what will happen now with the league being stopped," said a source who spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not mandated to speak to the media.

But club chief excutive Khumbulani Konco maintained all players had received their salaries.

"It's not true [that we have not paid players]," Konco angrily said. "That is k**k... every month I have to answer the same question.

"We have been paying the players this year. Since the [beginning of] season everybody has been paid.

"What is new, what has changed?"

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