Mark Gleeson

Solving 'white elephant' poser

2011-07-04 12:48
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson
Is there a future argument for forcing clubs who can’t attract fans to move to a proximity where they might better fill the stands?

Although the municipalities of Polokwane, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth must be commended for trying to keep their Soccer World Cup stadiums busy, they would be much better served with a regular tenant.

Good news is that Black Leopards intend using the stadium at Polokwane as their home ground for the coming Premier Soccer League season, which marks their return to the top flight.

But Mbombela will again have to scramble for the occasional game, paying clubs to ‘transfer’ some of their home fixtures as they did last season with the likes of Wits, Mpumalanga Black Aces and Mamelodi Sundowns.

Port Elizabeth’s stadium faces another barren footballing year with the failure of Bay United to gain promotion back to the PSL. Thankfully the venue does host many rugby games.

Perhaps it is time that the league took on a more 'national' look and that the American model of ensuring there are major sporting franchises in all major centre be considered.

Not just to keep the recently built stadiums from turning into 'white elephants', but also to ensure the professional league is spread across the country and that it is better supported.

There are many clubs whose average home gate hovers in the low thousands and who might be better served moving to a city or town with a decent sized population and that currently does not have a football team but certainly has an appetite for the game.

Places like Nelspruit, Port Elizabeth, Kimberley, Umtata and Polokwane need a permanent side. There are too many teams in Gauteng, few of which command decent support. Cape Town had three teams in the PSL last season, too many in my opinion.

Some only have a handful of fans and make no money from gate takings, in a sense almost defeating the purpose of running a team.

But their prospects would change for the better were they to move to a centre with decent facilities, a willing and helpful municipality and a soccer-starved population.

To make the league truly national, it is time that the PSL took the five clubs with the lowest home gate this coming season and forced them to seriously consider a change.

It is vital there is better attendance at PSL games, a better atmosphere will serve to entice even more people and make the product that much more attractive. There are too many games played before paltry crowd in empty suburban stadiums. That needs to change.

Supporter-less clubs must think about moving to venues where they will attract fans.

It would certainly be for the good of the game.

Mark Gleeson is a respected television commentator and Editorial Director of Mzanzi Football.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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