Absa Premiership

Financial gain reason for Ajax v Chiefs venue mayhem

2017-02-24 08:05
Ari Efstathiou (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - The Absa Premiership clash between Ajax Cape Town and Kaizer Chiefs was given the green light by the Premier Soccer League (PSL) after a delay in confirming a venue after safety concerns were raised over the ability of Athlone Stadium to safely host the fixture.

Ajax Cape Town CEO Ari Efstathiou previously told journalists that he had raised concerns with the City of Cape Town and the PSL over the capability of Athlone Stadium to host the match against Chiefs, who would attract a large number of fans.

"The issue with Athlone Stadium is that we averaged 35 000 fans for our games v Kaizer Chiefs in the past few seasons," Efstathiou said, as quoted on the club's official Twitter account.

"Playing at Athlone, we can only issue 17 500 tickets, 3 000 complimentary. Take into consideration that it is at the end of the month.

"Every team wants to play at home. Moving the match to Durban would not be of financial gain. It would cost us more.

“As additional information, we told the PSL (Premier Soccer League) that if they felt we wanted to move there because of a financial gain we were prepared to donate any additional profit made - by moving the game to Durban - to charity. That issue is also off the table.

The charitable gesture as well as the claim that there will be no financial gain seems at first glance to be genuine, but a closer look into the deal that Ajax has with the City of Cape Town to host games at stadia in the Mother City shows that they would have benefited financially in more than one way. By either moving the venue to the Moses Mabhida Stadium or postponing the fixture to a later date to be held at the bigger Cape Town Stadium.

The contract will see the city carry the stadium’s direct cost and specific service costs for the games. Any income accrued from ticket sales will be paid back to the city council until an estimated R3 million in direct costs have been recouped. Expected sales of 57 000 tickets for the 2014-17 season should cover the predicted costs. If there is a shortfall, Ajax has agreed to contribute an amount of up to R270 000 towards it.

There is also no way to determine whether any additional profit made would indeed be donated to charity (donating to charity is also beneficial for tax purposes). Efstathiou though, when criticising a decision by the City Council of Cape Town to host three Kaizer Chiefs 'home' fixtures in th Mother City, gave a detailed description of how such deals worked.

“It costs approximately R600 000 to run a game of that magnitude at the stadium‚ then you have the travel costs for both teams which could be another R300 000‚” he says.

“That leaves R100000 as potential profit. Do you think Chiefs are going to give up home-ground advantage‚ travel and risk losing for R100000? There must be an additional incentive for them put forward by the city.”

So from these statements it could be gathered that Ajax themselves would have received an additional incentive to host the Glamour Boys at the Moses Mabhida stadium.

Efstathiou further claimed the City's decision to host Chiefs, was a display of their lack of support towards developing soccer within Cape Town.

“I find the principle completely wrong‚” he told Times Media. “I don’t understand how the City of Cape Town‚ which has not supported Western Cape football in many ways‚ is now financially supporting Kaizer Chiefs.

“What we are saying is that the Cape Town City council is dishing out money to a team from outside of the city and not supporting local football. That is totally unacceptable.”

But Ajax can now be accused of doing exactly the same thing by using 'safety concerns' and the possibility of loss of life due to overcrowding as a reason to postpone the fixture.

Yet to date, there has been no reported cases of any casualties at a soccer matches hosted at Athlone Stadium.

Efstathiou used a recent Mamelodi Sundowns clash at Athlone Stadium as an example of the difficulties to hosting fixtures at the venue.

“For the Sundowns game at Athlone last year, we sold around 10 000 tickets, but had 5000 spectators at the gate without tickets. It became very volatile and we had to decide whether to open the gates and have possible problems on the inside with lack of security, or keep the gates closed and have problems on the outside. I took the decision to open the gates as I thought it would be much safer, but it was not a comfortable situation, and very risky – if something had happened, I would have been held liable and receive a criminal record.

These statements and numbers could be questioned however as those fans outside the stadium could possibly have been ticket-holding supporters who were late. It is also extremely difficult to estimate 5 000 as an exact number of people outside the stadium.

Efstathiou tellingly decided touch on claims by the media, that financial reasons were behind his request to move the game. Ajax being accused of mishandling the club is nothing new and is a reoccurring theme in local soccer circles. There have been many accusatory remarks made against the way the club is run by former players and coaches.

Former coach Roger de Sa unfavourably compared the Efstathiou to Cape Town City owner John Comitis - accusing him of prioritising the financial side of the club over football matters.

He told KickOff Magazine"John was a football type of guy, flamboyant, football first, 'count the money later, we'll make it work' kind of man.

"Under Ari, it's the total opposite. He makes sure the money works first and then he'll see what we can do with it later...My time at Ajax was all about cutting costs, getting rid of the heavyweight players and earners, making the books balance, putting money in the bank and selling players."

The whole debacle this week could be the most obvious example of this as the confusion over a venue is obviously far from the correct preparation a tough fixture against an in-form Chiefs side, with Ajax suffering heavy recent defeats.

The PSL also must have been privy to the dealings at Ajax when reached for comment, with PSL communications officer Lux September refusing to respond to the statements made by Ajax, simply saying to KickOff: “As far as we are concerned, the match will be taking place on 25 February at Athlone Stadium. We have been in constant written correspondence with the club, but can’t divulge that information.”


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