Red card for track at stadium

2012-07-23 00:00

MARITZBURG United are enraged that they will no longer be able to host big games at Harry Gwala Stadium after the announcement that an athletics track is to be built on adjacent land.

Chairperson Farook Kadodia told The Witness that the land was used for parking on match days, and the club had never been consulted about the development.

Without parking, he said, big games against the likes of Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates would create a security threat.

“You can’t expect people to park at the Oval and walk to Harry Gwala,” said Kadodia. Besides, there wasn’t sufficient street lighting.

He said he had written to the Sports and Recreation MEC and asked for funds to be made available to build training facilities and an academy in the Harry Gwala stadium precinct.

“An academy centre would enable youth players to train side by side with the professionals, and that would inspire the youngsters.”

He said he had yet to get a response.

“All our efforts in preparing a good team are not being supported,” he said.

“We are making huge investments in terms of players … but how do players react when they come here from Europe [and see the facilities we have]?”

He said one reason the club had entertained the idea of taking the club to Port Elizabeth was the facilities that were available there.

The Team of Choice was earlier this year linked with a permanent move to Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in a three-year-deal worth R20 million.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Brian Zuma said the new athlletics track would not affect United’s big games.

“Clearly the chairman is frustrated, but we would like to allay his fears and say there will be parking available,” Zuma said.

“AB Jackson field will be available, and the ground next to it will also be available. We will also be upgrading lighting in the area,” said Zuma.

“We will have enough space in order to accommodate vehicles,” he insisted.

Zuma said a planning committee had been set up before it was decided to build the track.

The South African Football Association (Safa) had been represented on that committee.

“Through Safa, we believed the football fraternity were represented,” he said.

“[United] is a team which means so much to the majority of people in the city, and it is unfortunate that they were not represented in person.”

He said there would be an “engagement” with the club. “At this stage the project cannot be undone,” said Zuma.

He said construction of the athletics track would cost R18 million and it would be built in three phases.

“It is expected to be completed by November next year,” said Zuma.

Thokozani Magwaza, head of Sports and Recreation in KwaZulu-Natal, dispelled claims that the department had ignored Kadodia.

He said the department had had several engagements with him.

“He asked the department for R10 million over three years; 90% of that money would go to buying and keeping top players while the other 10% would be for development.

“But a sport club is a private business. We as the government cannot be investing in private businesses; our mandate is development. In all our engagements with him, he had shown very little interest in the development.”

He said treasury rules only allowed the department to donate R100 000, which had “deliverables” attached to it.

Magwaza also distanced the department from the parking concerns.

“The stadiums are the responsibility of the municipality. The government does not get involved in such matters, so if there are concerns they should be addressed with the municipality.”

Kadodia disputed that the club had requested millions from the department.

“All the department asked was what was the offer from PE and what can they do to keep the team in Pietermaritzburg.

“We understood they did not have the money and the issue was closed in May.”

He said the issue was simply the building of the athletics track around Harry Gwala and the fact that the club had not been informed about it.

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