'We are following Fifa laws', Safa say as war of words rages on

Sihle Ndebele Journalist

The SA Football Association (Safa) has defended against accusations that it's refusing to make the referees available for the resumption of the Premier Soccer League, and that it aims to annul the season.

Cancelling the season altogether was a possibility discussed at this week's PSL board of governors meeting, but it was dismissed with the club owners telling the league's executive to ask sports minister Nathi Mthethwa to mediate in the impasse instead.

Safa released a statement saying its match officials won't be ready by this weekend, when the PSL wanted to restart. The association's spokesperson Dominic Chimhavi said yesterday it was not Safa's wish to see the season annulled.

"The PSL should comply with the sports ministry's gazetted process. We should have overseen the testing of players and everything. But the PSL did it on their own, hence this misunderstanding. They are misleading the public saying we don't want them to restart. Why would we cancel the season? We're not broke," Chimhavi said yesterday. He was referring to conspiracy theorists' claim that Safa wants the PSL season cancelled as it doesn't have sufficient funds to complete the third-tier ABC Motsepe League.

"The Motsepe league is run by provinces and everything is in place there. People are just clutching at straws. Safa, just like any other company, is also reeling from the effects of Covid-19, but the issue of saying We're broke is just a narrative driven by people who are dreaming."

On Tuesday, PSL confirmed through a statement that Safa couldn't avail referees. This came after the association had said that referees would need 14 days of fitness and Covid-19 tests before they are ready to officiate.

However, ex-PSL referee Ace Ncobo dismissed Safa's statement, insisting referees were ready, having been exercising on their own during lockdown.

But Chimhavi emphasised Safa were just following Fifa's rules: "We liaise with Fifa. When a referee has been inactive for a month or two, he must go through a mandatory three-week fitness training. Training on their own doesn't equate to passing the rigorous Fifa fitness test, this is what Fifa told us."

As PSL referees are part-timers, with many of them having professionals jobs aside, it may be tricky for them to be in the PSL's bio-bubble for six weeks.

The PSL expects a response from Mthethwa on the standoff by tomorrow.

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