Groundwork has been laid for season to resume, but state must give green light.
Amid the uncertainties surrounding the PSL programme that has been on hold since mid-March, league chairperson Irvin Khoza says there have been ongoing efforts to find ways to get the stalled season back on track.
Khoza told City Press on Friday that the league’s executives would hold a virtual meeting on Thursday to deliberate on the feedback from its task team, which was set up in March by the PSL’s board of governors, to investigate if it’s possible to complete the 2019/20 campaign amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
He said a lot of groundwork was covered through extensive consultations with government, in particular with Sports and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
This was part of the PSL’s bid to convince government that football could conform to the stringent Covid-19 health and safety regulations to restart play.
“Before we can say whether we have a plan or not, there are two considerations to make: saving lives first and foremost, and preserving the livelihoods that we can as a business.
"The predicament is that only the health department can make that call on whether it’s conducive to play or not,” said Khoza in a telephonic interview.
“The task team has prepared a PSL health and safety match-day protocol document. The report will be discussed next week at the executive committee meeting, and we’ll be able to give direction and go back to the minister, for consideration.
“As the PSL, we’re confining ourselves within the directives of Fifa – that the leagues can only resume if given the green light by their governments,” Khoza said.
“I must say, the minister has been of great assistance on how to get to a comfort level if government were to say when it will be safe to resume. He was happy with us, not just as a sport, but as a business.”
As things stand, the PSL falls in the bottom pile of activities classified as “prohibited”, even under the level 4 risk-adjusted lockdown strategy.
Khoza admitted that this phase would pose challenging scenarios for the league, especially when it comes to pressing matters such as players’ contracts and the PSL promotion/relegation play-offs.
“Now you’ve got a situation of level 4 [restrictions]. What if it goes on until July, for argument’s sake? What’s going to happen to the contracts and the play-offs? There are a lot of uncertainties and we must be flexible,” he said.
Early last month, world football governing body Fifa published a set of new guidelines to extend players’ expiring contracts beyond the end of June. The transfer windows would also move beyond the end of August to allow seasons disrupted by the virus to be completed.
The temporary solutions were drafted by a Fifa task force, which involved representatives of clubs, players, leagues, national associations and continental confederations.
The final local league games were set to end this coming weekend, but the remaining PSL fixtures have been on hold since the virus outbreak in South Africa in March.
The premier division programme has 111 games remaining, including the season-ending Nedbank Cup, which is left with three games – the two semifinals and the final.
Kaizer Chiefs are four points ahead of Mamelodi Sundowns in the contest for the Absa Premiership crown, while in the NFD’s GladAfrica Championship, Ajax Cape Town are leading Moroka Swallows by seven points in the race for automatic promotion.
Teams across the two divisions are mostly left with fewer than 10 matches each.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak began, the PSL had initially hoped to finish the season no later than June 30 and has even toyed with the idea of playing games behind closed doors.
Khoza, however, said there had also been engagements with the league’s other stakeholders, which include the players union and the broadcasters, on their efforts to rescue the campaign.
He said Thursday’s meeting would also pave the way for a press conference to inform the nation about the league’s position amid the uncertainties.
Meanwhile, Safa insisted this week that no football should be played‚ even behind closed doors.
The domestic football governing body said on Thursday that it had been “advised by two experts that no football could be played until level 1 of government’s coronavirus lockdown regulations”.
Khoza refused to be comment on Safa’s stance.