Absa Premiership

PSL wage cut implications dire - experts

2020-05-04 16:01
Tim Sukazi
Tim Sukazi (Getty Images)

The mooted Premier Soccer League (PSL) player wage cuts could have dire consequences, according to industry experts who believe majority of players are ill-equipped to withstand a drop in earnings.

While some high-end earners from South Africa's top clubs (Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns) portray the opulence and glamour of being a footballer, the reality is far different to the general playing population.

Bloemfontein Celtic and AmaZulu have reportedly been considering cutting wages to offset losses caused by the national Covid-19 lockdown. National First Division (NFD) club Royal Eagles have already cut wages by 40%, with others in the division expected to follow suit.

PSL and NFD clubs rely heavily on their R2 million and R500 000 respective monthly grants to meet their wage demands and to stay afloat and for the time being that grant is safe. 

Football, being a contact sport, has yet to be considered to return to action according to sports minister Nathi Mthethwa, who said on Monday they were still in discussions with the governing bodies the South African Football Association (SAFA) and the PSL.

A prolonged shutdown could, however, lead to the PSL freezing that monthly grant, the knock-on effect being player wage cuts.

"I am sure there are many reasons that can be provided to justify pay cuts but I am vehemently opposed to the idea," said attorney Modise Sefume, who represents Stellenbosch FC striker Ryan Moon and Chiefs goalkeeper Brylon Petersen.

"I am of the firm belief that most of the players in the league would not meet their monthly obligations and/or otherwise will not make ends meet should they take a pay cut. 

"The reality of football in this country is that despite the Gucci and Balmain pictures that some players post on social media and despite the known exorbitant salaries that some players earn, the majority of the football playing community is financially illiterate. 

"This is by no means an indictment on the players, but history and available facts tell us that a number of the players do not have a matric, let alone a tertiary qualification."

The issue of so-called "black tax" has also come into play. Majority football players were breadwinners, said Sefume, who came from underprivileged or impoverished backgrounds.

"This is further compounded by their family upbringing," he said. 

"Some players come from adverse poverty or families with limited financial means. This strongly influences their relationship with money and how they use it.

"You will be hard-pressed to find a player from a disadvantaged background who is not paying 'black tax'. Players are not only heroes to the fans but they are also breadwinners to more than one family. 

"The net effect of a pay cut for footballers will leave some players in financial ruin and could have further calamitous consequences for the many families which these players maintain."

Some footballers from the wealthiest leagues on the globe also balked at wage cuts, despite the eye-watering wages earned in European leagues. 

Last month, English Premier League side Arsenal's players refused to take a 12.5% wage cut to help the club ride the coronavirus tidal wave that has hit the sport.

In March, Spanish giants Barcelona's players, including Lionel Messi, also refused to take pay cuts. 

Tim Sukazi, former agent and NFD club TS Galaxy owner, said South African footballers weren't financially equipped for any eventuality - least of all a global pandemic - but this wasn't unique to their industry.  

"Most footballers, like everybody else, were caught off guard by the Covid-19," he said.

"I don't think players are prepared for any eventuality. This is the case not only in South Africa but even in European countries. Players generally live a fantasy life.

"They set themselves a higher standard of life, which costs a lot such that come the end of their careers their savings  get depleted much quicker.

"The inability to save money for a lifetime is not unique to football players; even teachers and other professionals struggle just a few years after retirement. It is just that if it happens to a player, it gets publicised due to their higher profile."

However, Jazzman Mahlakgane, who manages Sundowns star Themba Zwane, opposed this view, saying players would be able to survive pay cuts because of the restrictions imposed by the government lockdown.

"Players aren't traveling anymore, which means there's a lot of money they are saving, and they are only spending on essentials," said Mahlakgane. 

"They're not buying unnecessary items or a nice big car. The money they are still receiving from their clubs will make sure that they buy food and maintain their families up until everything goes back to normal."

Read more on:    absa premiership  |  soccer  |  coronavirus


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