Communication between Safa and PSL grinds to a halt during coronavirus crisis

Ms Mato Madlala addresses media during PSL Special Board of Governors at Emperors Palace, Johannesburg on 20 September 2018.
Ms Mato Madlala addresses media during PSL Special Board of Governors at Emperors Palace, Johannesburg on 20 September 2018.
Image: ©BackpagePix

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic‚ essential communication and cooperation between the South African Football Association (Safa) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) appears to have ground to a halt.

Football finds itself in crisis. The PSL has been suspended since May 16 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent national lockdown‚ and the league and its clubs are bleeding money.

Despite the need to find common ground between the often-at-odds Safa and the PSL on the nature of a safe return and solutions to the financial crisis‚ the ruling mother body and its professional wing have not met since before the lockdown started on March 27.

This was confirmed by acting PSL CEO Mato Madlala‚ who also could not confirm if any new meetings of the bodies‚ or their joint liaison committee (JLC)‚ had been scheduled.

Meanwhile‚ the PSL and Safa appear to be at odds on a return to football.

Safa said in a statement on Thursday it had been advised by two experts that no football could be played until level one of the government’s coronavirus lockdown.

However‚ AmaZulu general manager Lunga Sokhela said this week that he understood the PSL was seeking a return at level three for closed-doors football in some form. Cape Town City chairman John Comitis said that if football could not resume by the end of May‚ the league would incur dire financial losses.

Safa communications manager Dominic Chimhavi said Safa had not engaged the PSL on Sokhela’s remarks. He also could not confirm any coming meeting of the JLC.

An initial meeting scheduled for April 21 was postponed. Safa's ex-acting CEO Gay Mokoena then indicated he had plans to reschedule and meet PSL acting counterpart Madlala on April 30.

It has since transpired that Safa president Danny Jordaan asked Mokoena on April 15 to leave his position as acting CEO.

Chimhavi said that if the PSL approached the government directly to discuss a return to play‚ it would not be following the protocol of operating through SA football's mother body.

“Football is run through Caf and is run through Fifa. And the contact process is through the mother body‚ the FA‚” Chimhavi said.

Chimhavi was asked if the PSL should be working with Safa on the matter‚ and if the relationship between the league and the FA was so bad that it could force the league to circumvent Safa.

“I don’t think it should go that far. I mean‚ we have to work together‚” he said. “The process has to be a common undertaking [between the PSL and Safa].”

Madlala denied the PSL had circumvented Safa to negotiate with the government. “I don’t know where Lunga Sokhela is getting that from‚” she said.

She added that the last meeting of the JLC had been “pre-lockdown”.

Mokoena had been trying to communicate better with the PSL before leaving the position of acting Safa CEO‚ a league insider said. His departure appears to have complicated communication and cooperation.

Safa has insisted that no football should be played‚ even behind closed doors‚ since the Covid-19 outbreak.

The PSL‚ anxious to avoid a financial blowout‚ has been exploring options such as a closed-doors‚ World Cup-style tournament at one venue‚ with quarantining and testing‚ to try to play at levels three or two of the lockdown‚ if that can be achieved safely.