Mark Gleeson

Nip corruption in the bud

2009-01-13 12:07
Sport24 columnist Mark Gleeson (File)
Mark Gleeson

South African professional football has been the subject of much derision in the past, given its unsurpassed propensity to shoot itself in the foot.

But to be fair, the domestic game has shown massive strides over the last years; particularly with a sudden clean up of its image in the wake of the lucrative TV contract it signed with SuperSport.

Many of the regular foibles have thankfully disappeared, the cast of unsavoury characters involved in the game cleaned out and a new attitude adopted to make their product more appealing.

Indeed, it is noticeable how much better the crowds are this season, even if one of the consistent over the last decades is the inability of clubs or the PSL to publish match attendances.

The game experience is better for fans, security tighter and better organised and the venues all improving, many of them being refurbished in anticipation of the 2010 World Cup finals. Crowd violence, commonplace just years ago in the PSL, is now rare.

With the World Cup just over 500 days away now, the Premier Soccer League is in a good place, poised to take full advantage of the definite rise the profile of the game will get over the next 18 months and beyond.

Clubs have more cash than ever before, sponsors continue to seek to associate with the game (global credit crunch crisis not withstanding) and the quality of players and coaches is at an all-time high.

It has been an astonishing ascent, almost like a Damascusian vision once the clubs came to the blinding realisation that with a collective vision on professionalism they could transform themselves from a motley crew into a serious business.

One of the events that propelled the progress was the decision to clean up the corruption among referees. ‘Operation Dribble’ might not have been a major legal success but it did rid the game of its most blatant cheats, among the match officials at least. It never did prosecute those who paid the bribes, presumably because of reluctance to upset the order among the owners.

In recent weeks, there have been allegations of a bid by one PSL club to try and bribe a linesman to make decision in their favour.

Such has been the positive progress, the linesman concerned, Luyanda Somi, immediately reported the incident to his superiors. It was the referees who blew the whistle to the Press too, all signs of how mature the game has grown.

But that was two months ago. The South African Football Association and PSL both promised strong investigations but it seems little has been done since. Follow-up enquiries this week led only to a little shuffling on seats.

That is disturbing, not only in wake of all the gains made in recent years, but also with a growing international spotlight on our domestic game.

The PSL can ill afford to allow a rotting scandal to fester beneath all the advances of late. If corruption was attempted, let the guilty be cast out 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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