A word to the wise and otherwise

2011-12-17 14:44

Our soccer is so reliant on television money that those running the game have lost sight of the importance of the crowd.

Complacency, that feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction that is usually accompanied by lack of awareness of danger, has set in at Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs.

This is a result of the huge R1.6 billion television broadcast rights windfall of 2006.

Since then, most of the 16 PSL club bosses seem to be content with the R1 million monthly grants and the R1 million bonus the clubs get from the PSL at the end of each year as a “Christmas bonus”.

This has ushered in such complacency that clubs rarely look at other means of bringing money into their businesses.

The only time some club bosses seem to panic and start wailing and looking around for some means, any means of making money is when their clubs are faced with relegation to the poorer National First Division (NFD).

The NFD has become a dog-eat-dog zone as survival on the measly R250 000 monthly grant – a quarter of that donated to the elite league – is quite an uphill battle.

What’s more, to be able to make it back to the PSL, relegated clubs have to cling to the same bunch of players. And they do not come cheaply as clubs have to maintain the same salaries.

Those fighting for promotion need to attract players who are better than their peers in the NFD. These players also come at a hefty price.

Another by-product of the complacency exhibited by PSL club bosses is the fact that little is done to take care of supporters’ interests.

Some clubs don’t even have packages which attract and prompt supporters to join.

Even on match day, very little if anything is done to entertain the supporters.

The biggest danger, though, is that the standard of football being played in the PSL has deteriorated so badly that one can count on one hand the matches worth watching.

Some PSL matches are such dull kick-abouts that they would fail to draw crowds even if fans were allowed free entrance rather than the standard R40 fee.

Actually, whenever I watch football on the telly, I always wonder if I would still be frequenting the stadium if I was a paying customer.

I know a number of people who have stopped attending live games for all sorts of reasons, but the low quality of play is the main one.

Our soccer has become so reliant on television money that those managing the game seem to have completely lost sight of the importance of live supporters at games.

My fear is this: What would happen if for some reason television money dried up?

I think the indications are already there, as the jump in the latest deal the PSL signed with SuperSport was not as dramatic as 2006.

With the World Cup fast becoming a distant memory, I doubt that our football will ever be as attractive to sponsors as it was building up to the event.

We don’t hear of long queues of potential sponsors at football’s doorstep any more.

It is high time that soccer bosses started making hay while the sun shines or risk being caught with their proverbial pants down.

Just a friendly warning.

smseleku@citypress.co.za


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