Celtic lose home ground

2013-04-28 10:00

PSL decision will affect team’s future home games and a planned global tournament in June

A badly battered pitch has forced the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to order Bloemfontein Celtic out of their homeground for the remainder of the season.

Now, the team’s charming supporters will be forced to travel for nearly 70km away from Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein to watch their team host home games against SuperSport United and Free State Stars in Botshabelo.

But this could also have a bearing on Celtic’s future home games and a planned international tournament in June.

This week, Celtic were advised by the league that it could not continue using Free State Stadium since the pitch was not suitable for soccer. This was after several teams have complained about the state of the pitch.

The stadium, which is Celtic’s homeground, is shared with Super Rugby outfit Cheetahs, which use it as both a practice and match venue.

On Wednesday, Celtic will move its game against United – originally scheduled for an evening kickoff and now to be played in the afternoon – to an alternative venue in Botshabelo. But the alternative venue has its problems. It cannot host evening games. It doesn’t have floodlights.

PSL’s chief operations officer, Professor Ronnie Schloss, told City Press that the condition of the Free State Stadium’s pitch was not good for football.

“As it stands now, it does not meet the minimum requirements and has proven dangerous for players. Our first interest is to protect the players and the pitch has not been good for a football spectacle.”

This, he said, was because the pitch was being overused.

“We know for a fact that it has been used continuously for matches and training purposes. If we had a situation like at Loftus, where teams don’t use it for training, it would have been better, but we found ourselves in a fix.”

Schloss said the league was in a predicament as all the remaining league matches had to be played at the same time, but with Botshabelo not equipped to host night games, it posed a huge challenge to the league.

Celtic’s managing director, Ike Augousti, said they had accepted the league’s decision, although it would hit them in the pocket. He said they were scheduled to host an global tournament in June featuring, among others, Portugal side Sporting Lisbon, but said the tournament was now in jeopardy.

He confessed the pitch did not suit their style of play.

However, Augousti said he had since engaged the municipality and provincial government about the latest development, and was hopeful something would be done.

He promised the club would never ditch Bloemfontein, although they had been getting monetary offers to play their matches elsewhere.

Cheetahs spokesperson Ronel Pienaar said he was not aware of the PSL’s decision, but admitted that the pitch was taking strain.

The Cheetahs have played three matches and have to play five more. Before the Cheetahs hosted the Kings in a Super Rugby match there yesterday, there was also a Vodacom Cup game at 5pm.

“I don’t know anything about them (Celtic) being kicked out of the ground, but we would never kick them out,” Pienaar said.

“I don’t think the field is in a bad condition at all because it takes strain, but Bloemfontein weather is different from the rest of the country. The Cheetahs train here and there are back-to-back games here most of the time.”

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