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'Look, it’s an unpleasant time': AmaZulu GM Sokhela on the havoc being wreaked by Covid-19

AmaZulu General Manager Lunga Sokhela Press conference at Jonsson Kings Park during the Absa Premiership 2020 football season, Durban 09 Jan 2020.
AmaZulu General Manager Lunga Sokhela Press conference at Jonsson Kings Park during the Absa Premiership 2020 football season, Durban 09 Jan 2020.
Image: c Howard CLeland / BackpagePix

AmaZulu general manager Lunga Sokhela has said that for some Premier Soccer League (PSL) teams it will be a “responsibility” to make salary cuts in response to the national coronavirus lockdown to ensure the league still has clubs afloat to compete in it.

The Durban club were the first in the PSL to have disclosed to their players that pay cuts for this month were imminent, with other teams saying they may make cuts next month.

Sokhela said he was disappointed that AmaZulu’s internal letter informing players of a pay cut was leaked as the club’s management are still working to find ways to avoid or minimise such a measure.

“It’s business unusual. It’s allowed us to think out the box, and perhaps reflect on how we do things. Now business can ever be the same again,” Sokhela said.

“ … Look, it’s an unpleasant time. The reality is that in South African football a lot of clubs rely heavily on the owners putting their resources into the club to keep it going.

“And so when your other businesses are affected then it does have a direct bearing on the club. We as a club are doing our very best.

“It’s unfortunate that an internal memo was leaked to the media. Because it was part of a process of us engaging with the staff to say, ‘Look here, there is a possibility of such a thing happening’.

“But management are working around the clock to try and mitigate that thing. Because we understand, people have got livelihoods.

“The reality is that we have to be responsible. Because beyond Covid-19 we need to come back to a functioning industry.

“We have to look at how we get over this hill, so that when we come back we still have a football industry, and we don’t have clubs handing in their keys at the PSL, and saying, ‘Hey, we can’t function any more’.”

Sokhela said even with a sponsor like Spar, the Sokhela family – father, sugar baron Patrick Sokhela, is chairman of Usuthu – still injects money into AmaZulu, describing a double crunch that will be hitting many club owners of an expensive team to sustain, plus their own businesses suffering.

“The reality is that even though we’ve got sponsors, there’s still a significant contribution that’s made by the businesses of the owners of the club.

“I think it’s public knowledge the huge strain the sugar industry was already under. Now Covid-19 has made things even worse.

“We’ll make further communications with the players. We’re still trying to find certain avenues to try and avoid salary cuts.”

He said AmaZulu have applied to the government TERS Relief Benefit for financial support, and “other avenues”.