PSL's silence on stadiums a clear sign football fans are not valued

Nkareng Matshe Sports editor
Football fans were left disappointed as no word came from the PSL regarding their status after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced stadiums can now take up 50% capacity.
Football fans were left disappointed as no word came from the PSL regarding their status after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced stadiums can now take up 50% capacity.
Image: Lefty Shivambu

Reaction from the sporting fraternity to news that stadiums can now be filled up to 50% couldn’t have been any more contrasting.

Within minutes of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address this week where the easing of regulations was announced, cricket had already made a pledge to open for more fans for the SA v Bangladesh series.

Indeed, the very following day, thousands had taken advantage of that by flocking to Centurion for the final ODI fixture.

Rugby franchises also wasted no time, announcing they would open for more supporters for this weekend’s matches, adding liquor bars would flow as further enticement.

For football fans, who have not been anywhere near a stadium for two years, it has been another agonising waiting game.

While the PSL has maintained a stony silence, the SA Football Association issued a statement a day after the president’s address, expressing happiness “the government has opened up the space for fans to go back to the stadiums”.

We all know that Safa can scream all they want on this matter, but it is the PSL which holds all the cards. It is worrying that at the time of writing, despite such a seismic move in attempting to normalise the situation, the league had still not said a word as to its next move.

Instead, communication has been made only to member clubs – who thankfully shared it with the media – informing them a PSL executive meeting will deliberate on this on Monday and adding, most worryingly, that “current protocols remain in place”.

How the PSL has dawdled on the matter – while other codes fervently celebrated – is definitive proof that it couldn’t really be bothered by fans returning to the stadium.

The league first showed its disregard for fans when, last year, the government announced 2,000 people could attend a match. Excited fans were hugely disappointed after the league made all 2,000 tickets for the MTN8 final between Cape Town City and Mamelodi Sundowns available only to PSL sponsors.

This begs the question: why is the PSL treating fans with such contempt? There can’t be a uniform answer to this, but I suspect it may have to do with the fact that teams make money from elsewhere.

They are guaranteed millions of rand in grants per season, and spending a fraction of that on security and ticketing is seen as wasteful. However, that shows a lack of foresight for a league that competes in a now congested space.

As I pointed out before, it’s not as if fans are twiddling their thumbs waiting for the PSL leadership to make up its mind. They are finding other things to do amid this unjustifiable banishment.

They are being deliberately driven away. Yet it is fans who helped grow the PSL brand to what it is, putting it in a place where it can attract billions of rand  in sponsorship. It is they who when asked, spend their money selecting teams via cellphone voting. It is they who invest their emotions in PSL teams. It is they who continue to watch on TV, even when the product is often unappealing.

The oblivious relics who meet on Monday, cheered on by the sycophantic board of governors, could well cook up another excuse to keep the stadiums shut despite the easing of restrictions.

But there’s little doubt their selfish stance on fans has done more harm than good, and may take a long period to repair. By the time these "leaders" wake up, football fans may well have found a sport that values them more.

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