Are the PSL's five
"billionaire" clubs making the most of their wealth? Not if you take into account the early
results in the current Premier League in what top official Professor Ronnie
Schloss calls "the silly season."
"It's nothing like last season when Kaizer Chiefs
placed a stranglehold on the League title from virtually the outset," says
Schloss, "and Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates, Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United appeared their most tangible challengers.
"This time around it's been a topsy-turvy
succession of results," he added, "with Black Aces topping the log
and more fancied clubs not dominating to any great degree."
It not a given
that money will always buy success in soccer - and sometimes it is squandered and misdirected in a big way
and turns out a millstone round the club's necks.
Sundowns, Pirates, SuperSport and more recently Wits are, in the
present financial climate, always going to have a head-start over the other
clubs in the race for Premier League honours.
In the 18
seasons since the National Soccer League (NSL) hierarchy decided to
revolutionise its operations, bringing in at the helm seasoned English
administrator Trevor Phillips and change the name of the organisation to the
Professional Soccer League, Sundowns, Pirates, Chiefs and SuperSport have been
the champions an overwhelming 17 times.
Only Manning Rangers in the inaugural year of the
PSL during the 1996/7 season and again in the 2001/02 season when
Santos unexpectedly upstaged the big
money moguls, have Sundowns, Chiefs, Pirates and SuperSport not finished at the
top of the PSL heap.
And this is how the PSL championship roster currently
stands: Sundowns (six titles); Pirates (four); Chiefs (four); SuperSport
(three), Manning Rangers (one) and Santos (one) - with the monopoly of the top
dogs not broken over the last 12 years.
Wits, without a league championship to boast about, now fit in as of the most affluent and
therefore potentially one of the most viable candidates for Premier League glory in the future after being
taken over by the giant Bidvest conglomerate with interests in 300 companies, revenue in excess of R143 billion in
the past year and 14 000 employees worldwide.
Sundowns are considered to be the most affluent soccer
club in the country, while raising salaries to unprecedented levels and
earning the label of the PSL's almost obsessive spenders - although not always
with benefits to show for their at-times extravagances.
SuperSport may choose to minimise the wealth that keeps them comfortably afloat and is
always at their disposal when needed, but they are, of course, a vassal of the
multi-billion Rand Naspers media giant that grew from the insular Afrikaner
Nasionale Pers and now includes Multichoice,
MTN TV and News24 in a vast, varied and ever-increasing empire.
Koos Bekker, who was at the
helm in initiating much of the mushrooming growth, is reputed to be worth more
than R10 billion in his own right, with the company generating more than R62.7 billion in revenue last year.
Kaizer Motaung might personally not be in the Motsepe, Joffe, Bekker bracket,
but he is reputed to be a Rands billionaire and owns the most lucrative soccer
asset in the country.
What is more, such is the vast following of both Chiefs
and Pirates, that massive sponsorships
like those from Vodacom and SAB are n problem for the Soweto glamour clubs -
not to mention the revenue that accumulates from gate money and business partnerships.
The restless force behind Pirates and indeed the PSL is
Irvin Khoza, who has been modestly credited to have a personal fortune of
R100 million. But the man known as "The Iron Duke" has a steel-like
grip on organisations with a value far in excess of this amount.
"Even when you assemble a team with the potential to
win the PSL championship," said the chairperson of one of the less affluent
clubs, "the problem then is to hold onto the players.
"You offer players attractive contracts, but
they come back with the response 'sorry,
we've been promised three times as much elsewhere."
it's one of the "big five" who have made the offer!
But now, against all the odds, the pendulum seems to be
swinging in an opposite direction.
Have the big spenders
become complacent? Has their spending in securing players been a little off-key
and are the billionaire clubs running their affairs with a professionalism in
keeping with their bank balances?
Only time will tell and provide the answers as to who
will rule the roost come the end of the 2015/16 season in which a levelling up
process has thus far been evident.