Are United on their way to PE?

2014-05-23 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG is set to lose PSL football at Harry Gwala Stadium as Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality have made an offer to lure Maritzburg United to the Eastern Cape.

The club was coy about the development yesterday, but chairperson Farouk Kadodia confirmed the offer and said it would only be considered next week.

But the Eastern Cape municipality was more bullish that the deal would be signed soon.

Kadodia told The Witness that he has never been under more pre-season stress during his time at the club.

In the midst of a tug-of-war with Chippa United over the services of his coach Steve Komphela, Kadodia now has even more on his plate.

He said Nelson Mandela Bay had offered a R36 million three-year deal.

It is the second time that United have been made an offer from Port Elizabeth. Earlier negotiations between the two broke down in June 2012.

Last week, Chippa, who were understood to be the next tenants of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, confirmed that they would not be relocating from their Cape Town base.

But they are still in the market for Komphela, despite having lost out on the financial injection that would have accompanied the Port Elizabeth move.

Kadodia confirmed that the Port Elizabeth offer “came last week”, before the failed Chippa move was made public.

“We will only sit down and look at the offer next week,” Kadodia told The Witness yesterday. “I’m too stressed now. It is the first time that I have been this stressed in the off-season.”

The proposed deal would see United sign a “lifelong” lease at Nelson Mandela Bay and use the facilities without charge for the first three years. Thereafter, they would be on their own in terms of sponsorship. The club is currently operating without a title sponsor.

“The reality is that to keep the football club alive in KZN, we need the support of the province,” added Kadodia. “It is currently costing us around R9 million a year to keep the club afloat, and we struggle year in and year out.”

The chairperson conceded that he “hadn’t looked at the offer very well”.

“At this moment my priority is to settle the issue of the coach and what players are coming and going for next season; those are bigger headaches,” he said. “We are far from even considering the offer.”

But the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality was more confident the move would happen.

“We have an agreement in place with Maritzburg,” confirmed the municipality’s media management officer Kupido Baron. “We are currently busy setting up a formal announcement about the specifics of the arrangement.”

Another city media officer, Mthubanzi Mniki, also confirmed the offer.

“We are in advanced stages of our negotiations with the club for it to move to Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, using Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium as a home venue,” he told The Witness via e-mail.

“An announcement will be made very soon at a press conference that will be called. What we can confirm for now is that there is an interest from both parties in having the deal signed and Maritzburg moving with all its structures to Nelson Mandela Bay.”

Mniki also poured cold water on reports that the municipality had a pending deal with Chippa.

“We did not have a deal or negotiation with Chippa United as a municipality. Chippa United met the stadium management company to hear them out on their interest to move the team from Cape Town to Nelson Mandela Bay. Those discussions did not bear any fruit.”

Msunduzi Mayor Chris Ndlela said the council had not been told of the proposed move.

“If it turns out to be true, it will be very unfortunate,” he said. “The council has not discussed the matter.”

If United were to move, they would almost certainly have to change their name. But Kadodia said that he would cross that bridge if and when he got there.

“We’ll take this one step at a time,” he said.

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