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'It's not correct', says Nathi Mthethwa on journalists not attending PSL games

Tiisetso Malepa Sports reporter
Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa says he was not aware that journalists were not allowed at live football matches and believes 'it is not correct'.
Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa says he was not aware that journalists were not allowed at live football matches and believes 'it is not correct'.
Image: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa says it “does not sound right” that football journalists have not been allowed to attend live Premier Soccer League (PSL) matches at stadiums, despite government regulations allowing media to attend.

Mthethwa claimed to have been unaware that the PSL had not permitted vaccinated journalists at live matches even though national Covid-19 regulations allowed their return from November 2020. The minister was speaking in a radio interview on Thabiso Tema’s talk show on Power98.7 on Thursday.

“The regulations are clear that among the people who have to be at stadiums are the media,” Mthethwa told the popular breakfast radio show.

The minister said the regulation allowing the media to attend live events had been in place even before the stipulation to allow 2,000 vaccinated fans.

Stadiums have been off limits for football journalists since the country was first plunged into hard lockdown in March 2020. Journalists have not returned to PSL matches despite the mother body SA Football Association (Safa) and continental body the Confederation of African Football (Caf) allowing the media to attend national team and continental club competitions.

Other major sports, including rugby and  cricket, had begun to allow journalists back at stadiums from late 2020.

The PSL experimented with a pilot project for the safe return of fans in October last year when 2,000 vaccinated spectators and a limited controlled number of journalists attended the MTN8 final in Durban. Safa allowed limited numbers of journalists for Bafana Bafana’s 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Ethiopia and Zimbabwe at FNB Stadium.

It is almost two years since football journalists have covered Premiership matches live at stadiums and it appears nothing came of the MTN8 pilot project.

It is not known why the PSL has not allowed journalists at its live matches. PSL acting CEO Mato Madlala could not be reached for comment on her mobile phone.

While Mthethwa acknowledged that individual sports organisations may have a prerogative or reason not to allow journalists, the minister said he would engage sports umbrella body the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) over the matter.

“I am hearing about this for the first time here from you and I don’t think it is a correct thing,” Mthethwa said. “This is because we were saying even when we were under a hard lockdown that the public needs to be informed about what is happening.

“Even if spectators are not allowed at all, the world and the country has to be informed about what is happening. So from this engagement with you I really would like to interact with the confederation of sport, which is Sascoc, to inquire whether they know about this because it doesn’t sound right.

“This is especially because there are protocols that will need to be observed and somebody must report whether in all our social stations we are observing those protocols.”

Mthethwa said he was only aware that the PSL had reservations on allowing a limited number of fans due to concerns from club owners that the gate takings from 2,000 supporters would not cover costs spent on the logistics of hosting crowds.

Sascoc president Barry Hendricks told TimesLIVE last week the process had begun to persuade the government to allow professional sports organisations to host vaccinated fans at half their capacities from next month.