Mark Gleeson

Sordid spat ruining PSL image

2009-02-24 09:36
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson
Let’s start out with some praise, effusive praise indeed. It is my sincere contention and conviction that the level of the domestic game, indeed the Premier Soccer League, has improved dramatically over the last years.

It is now a slick professional organisation, whose fixtures are well planned and rarely tinkered with in stark contract to the past norm; whose product is full of high tempo and excitement and whose commercial capabilities have also been evidence by the massive TV deal signed with SuperSport.

The R1.6 billion deal over five years is indeed the seventh biggest of its kind in world football, according to sports business analysts, and speaks volumes to the potential of the South African game.

Coaches are better, pay is massively improved and the crowds are up. The league no longer books poor facilities or pitches and insists on a professional approach from its clubs. If not, they are heavily fined. To boot, we are all set for a yet another dramatic finish to the title race.

For decades, South Africa league football has struggled with a problem of perception. It came in for continued stick because of the unnecessary shenanigans that went on behind the scenes; poor planning and execution, weak leadership and a win at all costs mentality. But there have been dramatic changes for the better.

It still has to struggle to convince many that it is the real deal, although that is rapidly changing. Corporate South Africa is a believer, as evidenced by the extensive sponsorship money pumped into the PSL. So is television and after the 2010 World Cup, I fancy we will see families and members of minority communities returning to the stadiums to watch our local games.

Sure, there are often dour matches and admittedly players are not as slick as the superstars overseas. But it is a good product with a massive future.


Now to the rub: Why then would two of the league’s top clubs involve themselves in an unseemly spat over a player that can only serve to damage this new-found reputation and convince the negative element of the ‘Mickey Mouse’ nature of the league.

I refer to the tug-of-war between Orlando Pirates and SuperSport United over Lance Davids, where the league’s own chairperson Irvin Khoza is directly involved.

SuperSport gazumped Pirates near the end of the January transfer window for Davids's signature, in the same way many people lose out on dream house deals to a rival with a more attractive offer. It’s the way in such matters. You win some, you lose some. The transfer market is exceedingly competitive these days.

But such has been the anger of Khoza that he has taken this matter to the PSL’s disciplinary forums seeking some redress, and dragged the league into a swath of unnecessarily negative publicity.

As a prime architect of maneuvering the PSL to a new level, Khoza should know better. He was duped by the player’s agent, and then compounded it by prematurely releasing news of his supposed signing, only to be embarrassed when it emerged SuperSport had won the race for the Bafana Bafana midfielder’s signature.

Twice now, this matter has been placed before the PSL’s and twice it has been postponed by Pirates, further exacerbating the negative perception.

It is turning into a sordid affair. The facts are that Davids signed for SuperSport and is accordingly registered with the league.

Pirates had received e-mailed acceptance of their offer to the player but then the agent reneged before Davids could sign, as he chose an alternate offer from SuperSport.

Pirates are entitled to be angry about their treatment but not entitled to turn this into a farce. If Khoza really believed he could overturn this on a legal technicality, he should have proceeded at the two scheduled hearings instead of asking for postponements.

This is one that should be chalked down to bitter experience and the race for the league title should be allowed to continue unhindered, without the clouds of potential judicial interference hanging overhead. It is no good for the image of the South African 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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