Why Malema was right to call out the PSL

20:34 EAT 11/01/2022
Kaizer Chiefs fans
There have been no fans allowed at South African football games since the implementation of regulations in March 2020 following the Covid-19 outbreak

Economic Freedom Front leader Julius Malema was on target with his comments urging the PSL to do more to allow supporters back in the stadiums.

The Premier League in England as well as many of other Europe’s top divisions have been playing in front of full stadiums all season long. And even when the latest coronavirus variant, Omicron hit, things continued as normal.

Some may argue that it’s pointless to compare South Africa with a country like England, which for one thing, has better-resourced health facilities We can instead look closer to home on the African continent, where a lot of leagues are allowing fans to attend.

Limited fans have been back in stadiums in the Egyptian league. In Kenya, full stands are allowed, while Ghana has taken a more cautious approach, with venues allowed to at 25% capacity. Perhaps that’s a route the PSL could take.

In the current Afcon, venues can be 80% full when hosts Cameroon play and up to 60% for the other participating nations.

Gap between rich and poor increases

For the bigger PSL teams, there is generally more cash in the club coffers and there are major sponsors to help keep the books balanced.

For the smaller financed teams, the loss of revenue from match tickets is a big setback. Such clubs, for example, can make in the region of half a million or more when a team like Chiefs or Pirates come to play.

A host club can also sell club merchandise and offer other services and products to fans, while of course, live games with supporters provide both formal employment and a multitude of informal traders further opportunities.

Dwindling income can also lead to the smaller teams increasingly having their best players poached by the bigger fish in the PSL.

Financial gain aside, it’s the human, social, entertainment factor that’s been taken away for many – in a country with a lot of issues, football games are great escapes.

“That is absolute nonsense, they destroy the only bread that the people of South Africa have,” Malema said.

Too much caution?

On one hand, it could be said that it’s commendable that the PSL and the government are so concerned about South African well-being in the midst of the pandemic.

But when taken into context against many of the country’s other challenges – unemployment, crime, domestic violence, HIV/ Aids and various other economic and social problems, it's questionable whether the right approach is being taken.

The lengthy delay to get any number of fans back in the stadiums is also seemingly in line with a PSL organization which in recent times is becoming increasingly bureaucratic and seemingly unable to make quick and decisive rulings.

One would hope that the time between now and when the league resumes in mid-February (due to the Afcon), will provide a suitable window for the PSL and the government to reach an agreement that will at least allow a reasonable percentage of supporters to attend games.