Pressing Issues: PSL and Safa must lift the veil of secrecy when it comes to business

2014-07-31 13:45

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) has come a long way in making the sport more professional in South Africa.

Sponsors have even upped the ante and poured millions into it unlike the paltry thousands they did in the past.

The PSL chairman – he of the missing tooth – even prides himself on, and is wont to tell anyone who will listen, how strict his organisation is when it comes to corporate governance.

But the veil of secrecy that still exists in South African football when it comes to sponsorship deals, player transfer fees, signing-on fees and salaries, casts a shadow on the sport.

It creates an impression that there is still a dark side to the sport.

Otherwise, why would clubs – that we would like to believe are legitimate businesses – hide how much money they make and how much they pay their players?

They are, after all, public figures. Clubs even deny approaching players to join them until they “unveil” them as new signings.

A case in point is the Bloemfontein Celtic sale to Free State businessman Max Tshabalala. (Oh, point of correction – to his “family” as he revealed this week.)

When City Press deputy sports editor Timothy Molobi broke the story three weeks ago, it was met with denials all round.

An overzealous employee of the Free State government, one Moalahi Bina Seate, wrote a scathing letter (that we published) directed at Molobi.

He titled his letter “Misleading article about Celtic’s ownership” and circulated it to a group of people, most of whom had Free State government email addresses.

In his vicious attack on Molobi – a journalist with 16 years’ experience – Seate fumed: “As a sports journalist, one expects that your so-called sources and insiders are credible for you to make an informed opinion before rushing to print such fallacies.”

He went on to pose several questions framed as reasons Celtic would not be sold.

Needless to say, Seate’s silence has been deafening since Tshabalala confirmed the sale early this week.

Tshabalala – who owns Second Division side Roses United – was approached and dismissed the issue as “a malicious ­rumour” aimed at “destabilising” his other businesses.

He went on to state categorically: “I want to set the record straight to say there is no truth in the rumour. My focus is on rebuilding United, hence I have hired Clinton Larsen [a former Celtic coach].”

Fast forward to this week and Tshabalala was singing a totally different tune.

He told our sister publication, Soccer Laduma: “It’s official. I’m excited about being with the big boys in the PSL.

I need support from you guys as it’s a big challenge which I’m taking on.

“The deal has been very smooth and from tomorrow I’ll be with Ikie [Augousti] at the office to sort out the contracts of both the players and admin staff. The Augoustis will be with me until the end of the month. The technical team remains as it is.”

Maybe realising that he might be caught in a web as the PSL and Safa constitutions do not allow dual ownership of clubs, he later told KickOff:

“My new club will be owned by my family and I will remain the owner of Roses United.”

Now, what difference would it have made if Tshabalala told Molobi three weeks ago that he was in negotiations with the Celtic bosses but no agreement had been reached?

And also, what does this do to the speculation that he is actually a front for Free State Premier Ace Magashule?

But more than anything, do these developments portray Tshabalala as an honest businessman with whom you can do legitimate business? Methinks not!

And in future, how do we know when he is telling the truth and when he is engaging delaying tactics before revealing the “real truth”?

It is this kind of secrecy that is giving football a bad name and makes some big companies wary of doing business or getting involved with the aptly named “beautiful game”.

It is time to lift this unnecessary veil of secrecy so the game can reach its true potential.

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