'Safa is just being obstructionist about season restart'

Former Premier Soccer League referee Ace Ncobo said Safa should long have got the refs tested, just as PSL teams tested their players before telling them they could return to training three weeks ago.
Former Premier Soccer League referee Ace Ncobo said Safa should long have got the refs tested, just as PSL teams tested their players before telling them they could return to training three weeks ago.
Image: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images

The Premier Soccer League is seeking government's urgent intervention in its impasse with the SA Football Association over the restart of domestic football.

Sources who attended yesterday's lengthy Board of Governors' meeting told Sowetan the PSL won't accept Safa's suggestion that the Absa Premiership and GladAfrica Championship could only resume next month, and will thus ask government to intervene in the dispute in the next 48 hours.

In a statement, Safa yesterday said referees were not ready for the restart as they still needed to undergo fitness and Covid-19 tests, reasoning they could only be available in the first week of August.

The absence of refs, who are managed by Safa, would mean no match can take place at a crucial stage of the season, where championships could be won or lost, and relegation confirmed.

"They (Safa) are using this refs excuse and there's little we can do about it," a club official said. "We have no choice but to ask government to force them to provide referees because we are ready. We have done all the tests. Teams are all in camp."

Coastal teams such as Cape Town City, AmaZulu and Golden Arrows confirmed they were preparing to fly to Gauteng, chosen by the PSL as the preferred biological safety environment (BSE) to conclude the programme. But that could be all for nothing if football doesn't resume this weekend as per the league's wish, throwing already distressed teams further into an abyss as they might not receive financial grants at the end of this month.

"The 110 match officials will be subjected to tests and those who test negative (for Covid-19) would be required to go for a mandatory 14-day fitness test under the guidance of a Fifa-approved fitness trainer," Safa said.

But Ace Ncobo, a former PSL referee who served on the Fifa panel, dismissed Safa's statement as "just obstructionist".

"I mentor some of the refs. I speak to them frequently, and I know for a fact that most of them are ready," Ncobo said. "They want to be part of the BSE. They have kept fit during the lockdown, exercising on their own. The only thing they need now is to undergo Covid-19 tests which, according to the protocols, have to be done 48 hours before they go into the BSE."

Ncobo said even refs who have other professional jobs were eager to help the PSL complete the season.

"They have said they will speak to their employers to allow them to be part of this. Remember, some of them have never been to a major tournament.

"So this (BSE) set up would be a big thing for them. There are crucial matches leading up to the end of the season, so naturally they would all want to impress."

Ncobo said Safa should long have got the refs tested, just as PSL teams tested their players before telling them they could return to training three weeks ago.

"Safa are being just obstructionist in their approach. The (sports) minister (Nathi Mthethwa) gave the go-ahead more than a month ago. So why were the refs not tested then? Safa have known for a month that the PSL wants to resume and finish the season."

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