Johannesburg - The ugly spat between the SA Football Association (Safa) and its special member the Premier Soccer League (PSL) over the Outsurance referees’ sponsorship is threatening to throw the local game into a scary abyss.
READ: PSL blasts R50m SAFA OUTsurance sponsorship deal
The gloves have been off between the two organisations since Safa announced the R50 million referees’ sponsorship deal last week and there are no signs of an imminent cease-fire.
The PSL came out with guns blazing, accusing Safa of foul play and called the deal “offside”, labelling it one of the worst forms of ambush marketing that had the potential to devalue football sponsorship.
In retaliation, Safa hit back with a tough, strongly worded statement, referring to the PSL’s protestations as “absurd and nonsensical, to say the least”.
On Thursday, two of the country’s most powerful football administrators, PSL chairperson Irvin “The Iron Duke” Khoza and Kaizer Chiefs’ boss Kaizer “Chincha Guluva” Motaung, who also serves on the league’s executive committee, warned that the situation “reminds us of where we come from”.
Motaung said: “We don’t want to find ourselves back in the dark days when we had to secede from Sanfa [South African National Football Association].”
This was a reference to the ugliest and bloodiest soccer split, when clubs broke away from the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) and Sanfa in of 1985 to form the SA Soccer Association and the National Soccer League.
This resulted in Moroka Swallows defender Aaron Makhathini being gunned down outside his home on his return from training, and the late China Hlongwane being stabbed 27 times in full glare of the television cameras at Ellis Park Stadium when two sets of Orlando Pirates turned up for a league match against Jomo Cosmos.
The fraught relationship between Safa and the PSL over control of the football turf is an ongoing issue and the Outsurance saga is threatening to turn it into an all out war.
At a highly charged PSL press conference, Khoza and Motaung used stern words.
Khoza said: “For all the years I’ve been in football, I’ve never read a statement from Safa written in that manner. The statement was sent out while we were still in a meeting with them to resolve the matter. That was unfortunate. We have sent letters and [texts], but there have been no responses.
“We are very disheartened because this reminds us of where we come from. The correspondence we see from Safa amounts to insults.”
Motaung waded in: “One just wonders what has triggered this. If we don’t deal with this matter, it is quite clear that the football industry will be injured. We as the PSL have done everything according to the book. Some of the things mentioned in the statements from Safa have nothing to do with this matter at hand.”
Khoza said he had tried to reach Safa president Danny Jordaan to solve the impasse, to no avail. Motaung said the joint standing committee, a structure made up of members from both organisations, had not met in two years, despite several attempts from the PSL side.
Khoza said the deal between Safa and Outsurance had the potential to devalue football sponsorship because corporates “would feel that, when they enter into football agreements, their rights are not properly protected”.
Jordaan, who was out of the country travelling through west and north Africa on football matters, said he had seen no “missed calls or messages” on his phone from Khoza.
He referred City Press to acting Safa president Gay Mokoena because he was back in the country only for yesterday’s Cosafa Women’s Cup and was jetting off to London tonight for the Fifa awards.
“Talk to Mokoena, he is capable of handling this matter as acting president,” said Jordaan.
Mokoena said: “There are a number of wrong perceptions we would like to correct. Safa is the official custodian of football in this country. The PSL operates under licence granted by Safa. They are a special member, meaning their handbook can never be above the Safa constitution and statutes that are in line with and have been approved by both CAF and Fifa.”
On the issue of the Outsurance sponsorship being in conflict with some of the league’s sponsors, Mokoena said: “If a conflict of interest exists between Absa/Nedbank and Outsurance, then the PSL has multiple examples of conflicts.” He listed them as:
. Hollard Insurance’s sponsorship of Kaizer Chiefs and Bidvest Bank being sponsors of Wits in direct competition with Absa/Nedbank; and
. Vodacom’s sponsorship of Pirates and Chiefs, clubs that play in the MTN8 Cup competition.
He pointed out that, in rugby, Outsurance sponsors the referees, but the SA Rugby Union is “bankrolled by Absa and FNB”.
Mokoena said there was a need to address a number of conflicts that exist within the PSL such as that: “The board of governors is made up of club owners whose matches are refereed by Safa appointees. Board of governors members cannot direct referees who must handle their matches.”
He said Safa had decided to address the issue of club licensing, as well as the introduction of a national cup competition to be run by the association at their next national executive committee meeting.
On the claims that the Outsurance sponsorship had the potential to undervalue existing PSL sponsorship, Mokoena asked: “Does it mean that the National First Division has no value?”
Mokoena said Safa had sent a letter to Fifa asking it to clarify the matter in a bid to find a solution.