Soccer teams face mixed fortunes when it comes to players' salaries

AmaZulu players have had to take a pay cut.
AmaZulu players have had to take a pay cut.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

As was bound to happen, the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted deep inequalities in how it has affected the poor opposed to those with money.

As far as making ends meet is concerned, the disease has cut a swathe through South Africans' livelihoods, and the football fraternity has not been immune. There are reports nearly every day of local football teams, PSL sides included, who are seriously considering salary cuts to keep above water, and worse, some, like GladAfrica outfit Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila, who may just have to close shop.

Some, like the giants of South African football, thanks to their longevity, the deep pockets of their owners and an impressive portfolio of sponsors, seem to be weathering the storm much better.

Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, Mamelodi Sundowns, Bidvest Wits, Stellenbosch FC and Supersport United have been conspicuous by their silence.

Owners Kaizer Motaung, Irvin Khoza, Patrice Motsepe and Johann Rupert are among the country's most successful businessmen, while Wits is backed by conglomerate Bidvest and SuperSport has been rated the country's richest team.

But on the opposite spectrum, the likes of AmaZulu, Chippa United and Bloemfontein Celtic have voiced concern about their ability to meet their financial obligations.

Below is a quick look at who owns local teams and how they are weathering the national lockdown storm.

Amazulu

Usuthu is owned by KwaZulu-Natal sugarcane farmer and businessman Dr Patrick Sokhela, who took over the chairmanship of the iconic team after acquiring the status of Dynamos in 2005.

The team is sponsored by retail chain Spar.

Sowetan last month reported that a kerfuffle ensued when the team informed players they will have to take a salary cut brought about by the coronavirus pandemic that has led to the national lockdown.

Cape Town City

The team is owned by former Ajax Cape Town co-owner John Comitis and his son, 26-year-old Michel, who serves as commercial director. In 2016 Comitis, who has been listed as one of the richest football bosses, acquired the rights of Black Aces. Late last month Comitis announced his club’s players and technical staff will have to take a 20% pay cut if there is no resumption of football in May. With the lcokdown still in place, it is fair to assume the team went through with that plan.

Chippa United

Siviwe "Chippa" Mpengesi is renowned as the most trigger-happy of team owners in the country, but the self-made multi-millionaire also has an inspirational story of going from a shack in Nyanga to owning various businesses across many provinces. The Chilli Boys' success story is not just one of buying a status; they did it the hard way by fighting for promotion from the lower leagues. In announcing the teams' decision to pay players throughout the lockdown, chief operations officer Lukhanyo Mzinzi heaped praise on Mpengesi for making it possible.

Highlands Park

Highlands is owned by former Platinum Stars owner Larry Brookstone, Brad Kaftel, and Hadley Lasarow. The team's director Sinky Mnisi has gone on record to warn that the lockdown may end professional football if it does not resume soon. Like many teams who rely heavily on sponsorship, The Lions of the North's challenge is that sponsors Hatfield VW and Jonsson Workwear have ceased operations during the lockdown and have not given the team any money.

Black Leopards

David Thidiela has owned the Limpopo team since 1998. The teams' general manager Tshifhiwa "Chief" Thidiela has said they will be able to pay their players during the break, although he went on to predict a bleak future.

Swallows FC

The story of who actually owns this former Soweto giant continues to rivet those who follow these matters, and speculation abounds on how politician Panyaza Lesufi fits into this puzzle. However, it was refreshing to hear the Birds, who campaign in the less illustrious National Football Division, say salaries will continue to be paid in full, despite one of their sponsors pulling out.​

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