Black football pulled itself up by its bootstraps

2010-09-05 12:59

A passage in the book Soccernomics, penned by British soccer

journalist ­Simon Kuper and economist Stefan Szymanski, made me think

twice.


First, the authors state categorically: “Soccer is not merely a

small business. It’s also a bad one. Anyone who spends any time inside soccer

soon discovers that just as oil is part of the oil business, stupidity is part

of the soccer business.” Ouch!


The next line reads: “This becomes obvious when people in soccer

encounter people in ­other industries. Generally, the soccer people get

exploited because people in other industries understand business better.”


While this may be true about some of our soccer bosses, the

statement is a sweeping generalisation.


The same cannot be said about people such as Golden Arrows boss

Mato Madlala, a qualified chartered accountant, or Kaizer Motaung who built

Kaizer Chiefs from scratch into one of the biggest businesses in the country or

even Jomo Cosmos boss Jomo Sono who has built an amazing business empire outside

the soccer club, to mention just three.


Deeper into the chapter, the authors make an interesting

­observation.


They say in 1923, the England Football League consisted of 88 teams

spread over four divisions. In the 2007-2008 season, 85 of these clubs still

existed (97%) and 75 (85%) remained in the top four divisions.


They conclude “almost every professional club in England had

survived the Great Depression, World War II, recessions, corrupt chairmen and

appalling managers”.


British economic historian Les Hannah found that of the Top 100

companies in 1912, 49 had ceased to exist by 1995, five of these had gone

bankrupt, six nationalised and 37 had been taken over by others.


A look at the SA football scenario, thanks to information supplied

by journalist Mark Gleeson, showed that of the 14 clubs that formed the original

National Professional Soccer League (NPSL for blacks only) in 1971, eight still

existed while of the 12 that participated in the last National Football League

(NFL for whites only) season in 1977, only Wits University and Highlands Park,

who were bought by Sono and changed their name to Jomo Cosmos, had

survived.


This gives a slight indication of why there are so few white soccer

fans in the stadiums these days.


But there are other factors.


Here are the 1971 NPSL clubs according to their league positions

then: Orlando Pirates, Kaizer Chiefs, Moroka Swallows Big XV, Witbank Black

Aces, Pimville United Brothers, Zulu Royals, Pretoria Bantu Callies, Mamelodi

XI, Vaal Professionals, Lamontville Golden Arrows, Real Katlehong City,

Bloemfontein Celtic and Kimberley Dalton Brothers.


And the last NFL log in 1977 looked thus: Highlands Park, Lusitano,

Durban United, Wits University, Arcadia Shepherds, Maritzburg, Durban City, East

London United, Rangers, Cape Town City, Roodepoort Guild and Germiston

Callies.


To be continued next week ...

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