Johannesburg - The Premier Soccer League plans to revolutionise soccer development in South Africa and are willing to put R70m into a new-look National First Division.
As from next season, all NFD clubs have agreed to play a minimum of five South Africa born under-23 players in each and every league and cup match.
This was one of the far reaching decisions taken by the 16 NFD clubs at a special general meeting in Johannesburg at the weekend.
The other big decision was to revert the NFD to a 16-team one stream league and doing away with the cumbersome and unattractive two streams that has failed to bring in sponsors.
It was also agreed that only three foreign players would be allowed to be signed per club in future. In the past clubs could sign five foreign players.
The PSL have also come to the party. In the event the league failing to find a sponsor for the new NFD, which will cost about R70 million to run per season, the league have agreed to foot the entire bill.
In an interview with Sapa, PSL CEO Kjetil Siem outlined the PSL’s plans and said it was the biggest step forward in South Africa soccer development ever.
"We believe the new format of a one stream league - the same as the Premiership - will be attractive to sponsors, but should we fail to find a sponsor, then the PSL will put the money up and pay all the costs for the NFD which will amount to about R70 million for the coming season.”
Siem said the ground breaking decision to field a minimum five SA born under-23 players was taken unanimously by the clubs. This means that the NFD will become a nursery for both the SA under-23 side and Bafana Bafana.
“We had employed a sub-committee to deal with a new-look NFD and it was the clubs who wanted this new innovation. It is massive step in the right direction of developing South African talent.
“The bottom line is clubs will need to sign up between eight and 10 youngsters per season to comply with the new rules as players get injured or suspended.
That means we will have between 150 and 160 under-23 professional players in the NFD and that can only be good for SA soccer.
“This is the biggest boost for youth development anywhere and is shows that our clubs are looking to the future.
"This will also benefit our Olympic side and it will filter to Bafana Bafana level and hopefully will see the start of a national under-19 league in the not too distant future.”
Siem added that for too long many old players, especially foreigners past their sell by date from the PSL, had seen the NFD as their final resting place.
“That will not be the case anymore. Clubs will now have to sign young promising players instead of players at the end of the careers and by cutting the foreign quota, we are further encouraging clubs to sign local players,” said Siem.
From being number one country in Africa after winning the African Nations Cup in 1996 and breaking into the Fifa top 20 in the world rakings that year, Bafana are finding themselves 90th in the world a month before the kick-off of the World Cup on home soil.
This new move is too late to help Bafana beat the best in the world in June, but at least the future generations of national players will now get a fighting chance.
The other good news the new SA Football Association leadership have now embraced their youth legacy programme and combined with the PSL’s bold step, SA soccer could be in good hands in the future.
It was also agreed that the team winning the NFD at the end of 2011, will be automatically promoted to the Premiership while the teams finishing second, third and fourth, will go into a promotion/relegation playoff with the team finishing 15th in the 16-team Premiership.