The 2021/2022 Premier Soccer League (PSL) climax is once again marred by court appearances and finger-pointing. This time it’s PSL v Kaizer Chiefs, with their case due to be heard in the High Court in Johannesburg on May 10.
The PSL are doing themselves a disservice with all the seasonal bickering, which usually ends up in court.
Spectators want to see football matters settled on the pitch. However, it seems like every season similar scenarios unfold – to the detriment of the league.
The Chiefs saga began in December 2021, when Amakhosi flagged the PSL to alert them to a Covid-19 outbreak at their Naturena headquarters. The Amakhosi asked the league to cancel their games in December after it announced that 36 staff members had been affected by the outbreak. The number would later rise above 50. The league declined the request.
The Soweto giants, with their players and technical staff hampered by the outbreak, chose not to honor two of the matches they had requested to be postponed – against Golden Arrows and Cape Town City, respectively. As a direct result of their waiving those games, the PSL charged the Chiefs with misconduct.
The basis for the PSL’s refusal to call off the matches and charge the Chiefs instead stemmed from an emergency decision taken in August 2020, after a postponement of the start of the 2020/2021 season, caused by the appearance of Covid-19 in March 2020. the same year.
Then the PSL board ruled that Covid-19 related cases would not be considered one of the “extraordinary circumstances” that are required for the league to cancel a particular team’s game(s). .
Amakhosi, feeling justified in his actions given the circumstances prevailing at the time, requested that the matter be heard by an independent arbitrator before appearing before the PSL Disciplinary Committee.
Nazeer Cassim SC was appointed by the South African Football Association to oversee the refereeing and, after hearing both sides of the story, ruled in favor of Amakhosi.
In his judgement, aware that the Chiefs outbreak coincided with the arrival of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, he said: “In my opinion, the Kaizer Chiefs were justified in not fielding teams for the matches… These two matches must be replayed. There is a lot to be said about the fact that where possible matches are to be replayed… to allow football to triumph and the best team of the day to be rewarded… I am opposed to the litigation process to decide the winner. It is better that the results of the match are determined on the football field.
The PSL were unhappy with the result and are currently seeking to have Cassim’s decision overturned in the Gauteng High Court. In the meantime, they have asked Arrows and City to play the matches against the Chiefs.
On April 27, Amakhosi played against Arrows, losing 2-1. As of this writing, they were due to play against City on April 30.
Comitis does not engage
However, City were more vocal after Cassim’s decision – hinting that the Chiefs could have been treated with leather gloves due to their reputation as one of the biggest clubs in the country.
Speaking on sports commentator Robert Marawa’s podcast Marawa Sports Worldwide after Cassim’s decision in March, City Chairman John Comitis called the decision “a dark day in South African football”.
Additionally, after the league officially rescheduled their match against Amakhosi, City issued a statement mocking the instruction to play against Amakhosi, pending the outcome of the PSL’s review of Cassim’s refereeing decision. .
“The insinuations that we are a stakeholder or participant in this decision are false. We categorically disagree with this process and have responded in writing to the league and parties [involved] twice now, reserving our rights as a club to defend our position in this matter.
As a result, Comitis now faces charges of discrediting the PSL, as confirmed by league prosecutor Zola Majavu earlier in the week.
“John Comitis will appear before the Disciplinary Committee … to respond to charges of discrediting the league based on certain media statements attributed to him – which he has subsequently confirmed to be true and accurate,” Majavu said.
Why have City been so vocal on the matter, though? Well, the biggest point is that in December they spent the money to fly to Johannesburg from Cape Town – to arrive at the locked gates of FNB Stadium.
Then, of course, there is the matter of the mutual decision made in August 2020 that Covid-19 would not be sufficient reason to cancel matches.
In his view, while maintaining that the Chiefs ultimately acted responsibly by not respecting matches, Cassim criticized Amakhosi.
He said they failed to clearly demonstrate that they couldn’t field a team, only managed to convince the league that they couldn’t field their best team.
“Kaizer Chiefs should have provided complete and detailed all the supporting documents necessary to justify a change of luminaire. They didn’t,” Cassim said.
“Kaizer Chiefs had no less than four chances to show they were incapable of fielding a team. PSL’s legal representative has consistently and analytically demonstrated that Kaizer Chiefs have failed to demonstrate (and clearly have failed to meet responsibility) that they cannot field a team.
Moreover, in the previous season, a precedent was set when Cape Umoya United, then Second Division, were denied a match postponement after some of their players tested positive for Covid-19.
They pleaded with the league hierarchy for a postponement of their game against Cape Town Spurs. Their pleas were dismissed. They failed to honor the game and were punished retrospectively by the Disciplinary Committee, and Spurs were awarded all three points.
The same principle was applied when Polokwane City were unable to field the required number of players under 23 for their clash with Sekhukhune due to Covid-19. The latter thus gained points in the league.
These are some of the reasons why Comitis and his club have so vehemently opposed the sequence of events. Of course, there’s also the fact that City and Chiefs are in direct competition for the coveted second place in the DStv Premiership (which is the final CAF Champions League spot next season) after Sundowns sealed the deal. championship title earlier this week. As such, the two are desperate for the three points – any way they can get them.
Regardless of who is right or wrong, the latest event does little to improve the league’s reputation as one of the best on the continent.
In fact, it has likely opened a Pandora’s box that the league will struggle to contain in the future, and it will further damage its public image and trust in the organization.
Current sponsors are unlikely to be happy with this series of events. Potential investors will look from the outside and wonder if they want to be associated with all the off-pitch drama that has become synonymous with PSL.
The story repeats itself
In the 2020/2021 season it was Royal AM boxing in SA courts with PSL after losing the GladAfrica Championship title slightly due to eventual champions Sekhukhune United earning maximum points in their clash against Polokwane City. The latter, in their 1-0 victory over Sekhukhune, had not listed the required number (five) of U-23 players on their squad rosters on match day.
Polokwane were retrospectively punished and stripped of the three points they had earned, which were given to Sekhukhune and saw them propel Royal to the league crown by two points, the difference between direct promotion and having to participate to the promotion/relegation playoffs.
The whole storyline all but ended when the league hierarchy vetoed Royal by buying Premiership status from financially-struggling Bloemfontein Celtic. Royal asked the Court of Arbitration for Sport to overturn the decision. Their attempt ultimately failed.
However, the smash set was another reputational success for the league, following in the footsteps of the high-profile Ndorogate, which featured Ajax Cape Town (now Cape Town Spurs) and what the league considered the signature illegal by Zimbabwean striker Tendai’s club. Ndoro. This saga dragged on for months and threatened to derail the start of the 2018/2019 season. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly newspaper Daily Maverick 168 which is available for R25 from Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores. To find your nearest retailer, please click on here.