Despite Safa organising a successful first World Cup in Africa in 2010 and PSL revenues reaching R1 billion this year, little has changed in the on-off relationship between the two organisations in the past decade. Safa boss Danny Jordaan and PSL chairperson Irvin Khoza told Timothy Molobi that the two bodies have to find, support and work with each other in 2020.
The Iron Duke's pride and joy
‘I am happy that [the aims we spelt out] in 1996 in terms of breaking the R1 billion threshold and making the league unpredictable have been achieved.
”This was how PSL chairperson Irvin Khoza reflected on the progress of the league since the formation of what is now ranked as one of Africa’s top professional club football structures.
Though content with the achievements and milestones of the league so far, Khoza said they could not rest on their laurels, as there were still challenges ahead.
“Despite the economy not doing so well, we have to make sure our product remains relevant and exciting. This brings fear to me because when companies don’t do well, they cut budgets and we might be affected. Fortunately our members have realised this and the need to up their game."
Looking back on the past 10 years, he admitted it had not been easy but said he was proud of the work the PSL had done.
World Cup aftermath
Khoza said that, contrary to what many believed, the 2010 Fifa World Cup had left the PSL with huge expectations to fulfil.
“When we hosted the World Cup, we didn’t know we were bringing challenges and audits into our living rooms. People in South Africa noted what they saw on television – which was of international standard, in terms of the requirements of staging a World Cup in the country – so we had to ensure that we continued to provide the same conditions of facilities, governance and compliance. We could not be found wanting.
“After the World Cup, we had to give the people of South Africa the same experience and the same feeling,” said Khoza, who served as chairperson of the 2010 World Cup local organising committee.
Corporatisation of the PSL
The PSL was in the process of being registered as a company under the Companies Act, revealed Khoza.
He said the executive committee had been working behind the scenes to improve professionalism at every operational level to ensure the league was ready for this next chapter.
“Changes in South Africa and internationally have meant ever-increasing compliance requirements for professional football generally, and for the PSL in particular. These requirements have included a greater emphasis on employment law, tax law and administrative justice, as well as a far higher level of corporate governance.
Licensing was introduced by Fifa and CAF as a means of improving professionalism and Khoza said the PSL was the only league on the continent to adopt this with full force and follow it to the letter.
“Every one of our 32 clubs [premier and first division] has signed and agreed to be assessed every season. They know that no compliance, no licence.”
He said the licence regulators were former Safa president Molefi Oliphant, lawyer Zola Majavu and veteran football administrator Mubarak Mahomed.
Collective bargaining agreement
Khoza believed the recent signing of the bargaining agreement with the SA Football Players Union, which had been in the making for over few years, would mark the turning point for players’ wellbeing. He regarded it as the highlight of the past year and said it was long overdue.
“What delayed the process was the verification process which was done by independent auditors PWC to ascertain the membership of the union.”
He said this would help in terms of training and developing players, implementing anti-doping measures, professionalising the game and improving the education of players.
Khoza believed that the PSL had developed into one of the most unpredictable and dynamic leagues in the world.
“What makes our brand exciting is the surprise element, because any club can beat any side on any given day. You can never foretell the outcome of a match. Few clubs can participate in cup finals and that’s a breath of fresh air."
First division campaigners TS Galaxy became the first side from the lower ranks to win a trophy when they upstaged Kaizer Chiefs in the 2018 Nedbank Cup final, while Maritzburg United lost the Telkom Knockout to Mamelodi Sundowns on December 14.
“The cornerstone of our success has been governance, which has been our driving force for the past 10 years. For us to reach where we are today, we needed to adopt our compliance manual and our ‘handbook’, which has been an ongoing process. The most important part of the handbook is [rectifying] the inadequacy of oversight rules and making the mechanism to effect different disciplinary resolutions available to participants in professional football,” explained Khoza.
“One of the major changes in the past 10 years was the introduction of the safety component. Before every game, clubs must submit a security plan which has to be assessed and approved by the police. All the stakeholders must be involved.”
Over the years, the relationship between Safa and PSL had not been rosy, particularly in terms of the club-versus-country débâcle and match officials. Khoza said the PSL had already called for another meeting with the mother body through the Joint Liaison Committe early next year to iron out a few issues.
“From our side, everything we do follows the tradition that has been observed since 1992. We were the first to make sure the calendar was introduced. The challenge now is to ensure that junior tournaments don’t fall within the Fifa calendar, but we’re engaging with CAF to align all the tournaments. Cosafa and Total African Nations Championship events don’t fall in the Fifa calendar either.
“We have obligations to broadcasters and sponsors, who warn that they’ll penalise us if we postpone fixtures. If there’s no return on investment, why should they sponsor us? Before we finalise our fixtures, we send them to Safa to ensure their dates are included.”
R1 billion revenue
Khoza said it was not surprising that the PSL had reached the R1 billion mark, as their product resonated with the expectations of their consumers. He cited the MultiChoice Diski Challenge (the reserve league) as an example.
“We took it to areas which don’t have processional clubs, which provided them with excitement.
“We always give people what they want. That’s been behind our success.”
Danny Jordaan happy with how the decade played out
If the Bafana Bafana coach could have players for more than a month in camp, we would easily win major tournaments.
This was the assertion of Safa president Danny Jordaan, when reflecting on how Rassie Erasmus guided the Springboks to success at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Jordaan said that, inspired by this, Safa would convene a meeting with their special member – the NSL – to find each other on matters of national importance. He believes a good relationship between the league and Safa will benefit national teams.
“Looking back at the rugby team, I realised the Super Rugby ended in June and the coach had more than two months with the players. This is something we can only dream of in football,” said Jordaan from the Fifa Club World Cup in Qatar this week.
Jordaan, who is serving his second term as Safa president, said he was happy with how the decade has gone, particularly with the fact that all the national teams are coached by locals.
He said all the national teams, but Bafana, had a great decade after qualifying for different World Cups.
He was referring to the national Under-20 men’s team qualifications for two World Cups in Poland and Korea where they were knocked out in the first round in both tournaments.
Amajita also won back-to-back Cosafa tournaments in Zambia in 2017 and last year. However, they, failed to make it three in a row last weekend, after losing to hosts Zambia in the final.The national Under-17s also represented the country at the 2017 World Cup – their maiden appearance.
“Our Under-23s are going back to the Olympic Games next year. And this would be back-to-back participation after their involvement in Brazil in 2016. This shows consistency in our junior teams and we are happy with the progress we have made.”
Jordaan believes women’s football was the best mover of the decade. Although a lot still needs to be done, he was content with their achievement.
“I know it can never be enough but we’ve made strides when it comes to women’s football. During this period Banyana Banyana qualified for all the Afcon finals and also reached the finals.“Not only that, they also qualified for two Olympic Games – in London and Rio. And to cap it all, they went to the World Cup this year. Unfortunately they failed to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo but their achievements are unmatched.”
He said the only women’s national team never to qualify for the World Cup were the national Under-20s which unfortunately always faced Nigeria in their final hurdle.
“Since 2014 we have had three [Bafana] coaches – two of whom Safa would have loved to keep.”
He said Shakes Mashaba and Stuart Baxter left of their own accord even though the association was still interested in their services.
“Since 2013 we have managed to keep coaches for a longer period and we would have loved to keep both Shakes and Stuart,” Jordaan said.
He said Bafana were the only side which put a dent on Safa’s successes.
“After playing in the 2010 World Cup as hosts, of course, we had hoped we would build on that. Failing to qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup was a dent as well.
"Again we failed to qualify for Brazil in 2014 and Russia last year and these were the lowlights of the decade.”
Jordaan, however, said there were signs of improvement.
“In 2010 we were ranked 86 in the world and now we are in the top 70. We also went to two Afcon finals in Equatorial Guinea and Egypt and we hope to go to Cameroon in 2021.”
Relationship with PSL
Jordaan admitted Safa needed to strengthen its relationship with the PSL. A series of meetings are planned in the new year to try to forge synergies.
“We need to find each other for the betterment of South African football. We have to sit down to find a win-win solution for both organisations because we need each other.”
He said what happened with the national Under-23 team in Egypt was unacceptable. Only 14 players left for the eight-nation tournament that served as a qualifier for the Tokyo Olympics.
“What is happening with the release of players is not fair to our coaches. You cannot have players for three days and expect to perform miracles.
“When we won the Afcon in 1996 the coach had a long camp with the players and the results were there for everyone to see. We have to come up with the means of having longer camps hence we need to find each other with the league.”
Hosting major events
Jordaan said there was no doubt that hosting the 2010 World Cup raised the country’s profile internationally.
“The responses from the international community were overwhelming and hosting major events raised our profile,” he said.
South Africa also hosted the 2013 Afcon and the 2014 Africa Nations Championship tournaments.
“From the hosting point of view, we were extremely successful and our officials are now sought-after in the world because of their expertise.”
Former Safa acting chief executive Russell Paul is now the chief operating officer of the Qatar 2022 World Cup while Natasha Tsichlas was head of the CAF Afcon Women’s Championship in Ghana last year.
Jordaan admitted that Safa could have done better with schools sports and regional competitions but said these would be their focus in the new year.
“We also need to accelerate coaching education. We can’t be content with just an entry licence. The D licence should not be the end but the beginning. We need to encourage our coaches to aim high and learn more.”
He said they would also strengthen football administration at regional and grassroots levels.
“We can’t have all the qualified people at the top and forget about our local football associations.
“It’s not wise to do so and we need to start at the bottom. We also need to invest in women administrators. I was happy with the fact that we had the most number of women delegates at our annual general meeting and this is a step in the right direction.”
“In the last financial year we did not receive a single cent from broadcast sponsorship but we still pulled it off. All our national teams had various commitments and none of them failed to honour those engagements,” reflected Jordaan.
“We had to reduce the administration budget by R80.6 million and had to shift staff internally to continue doing the work left by those who retired and were not replaced.”
Jordaan concluded that Safa has lined up a few gigs to celebrate the 10th anniversary of South Africa hosting the 2010 World Cup.