Why there's little chance of an immediate return to PSL stadiums for local football fans

There's little chance of fans returning to the stadiums in the near future as PSL clubs say it's not economically viable to allow restricted numbers into venues.
There's little chance of fans returning to the stadiums in the near future as PSL clubs say it's not economically viable to allow restricted numbers into venues.
Image: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

Government’s decision to keep in place the restriction of 2,000 people for outdoor gatherings means there is no chance of an immediate return to stadiums for football fans, according to club officials.

The announcement on New Year’s Eve of an end to the night time curfew and the overnight movement of people was accompanied by no significant change to the rules on gatherings during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government said gatherings would be restricted to no more than 1,000 people indoors and no more than 2,000 people outdoors, and where the venue was too small to accommodate these numbers with appropriate social distancing, then no more than 50% of the capacity of the venue may be used.

While limited numbers of spectators were allowed to watch Bafana Bafana compete in the World Cup qualifiers towards the end of last year, there is no interest from Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs to facilitate a return of spectators while the regulations are in place.

Club officials surveyed by TimesLIVE on Monday, who asked not to be identified, said it was not economically viable for clubs to allow restricted numbers into stadiums.

The cost of extra security needed to check the vaccination status of spectators and ensure there were no more than 2,000 at a venue would eat the revenue from tickets and leave clubs with added costs.

It has been one of the unexpected benefits of the pandemic for most clubs that they have not lost money they usually would at the gate.

SA is among the few major leagues in world football where most top flight teams do not make money from gate takings, so poor are the attendance figures.

All clubs, besides the popular Kaizer Chiefs, Mamelodi Sundowns and Orlando Pirates, lose money hosting most matches because the cost of stadium hire, security and other match day expenses exceed the money they take at the gate.

Occasionally they do enjoy a lucrative ticket pay day, but only for key matches or against well-supported teams like the Soweto giants and the Brazilians.

It is also one of the great ironies of the local game that more spectators watch Chiefs and Pirates playing away from home than at either the Orlando Stadium or Soccer City. Fans in the Cape, Free State or Limpopo get rare chances to see their heroes and come out to watch.

The PSL also have strict rules on security for matches and categorise matches into different security levels. The higher the level, the more personnel are needed to keep the peace, and with it additional costs.

Playing behind closed doors since March 2020 means most clubs have had no more security costs and have been able to save money, officials admitted.

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