No bums on PSL seats

S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
S’Busiso Mseleku (File)
I am glad that Premier Soccer League (PSL) chairperson Irvin Khoza has acknowledged that the dwindling spectator numbers at matches is a problem.

For far too long, our football administrators have been burying their heads in the sand and not properly addressing this invidious trend.

Then came in the television big bucks which led to PSL clubs first getting a R1 million monthly grant which has now grown to about R1.5 million a month, which is whopping R18 million per annum.

As a result, most club bosses found no reason to vigorously market their clubs, work tirelessly to get bums on seats as they were guaranteed this income without raising a sweat or spending a dime on marketing.

Besides the growing number of matches being beamed live on television – which make most people prefer to sit at home and watch in the comfort of their living rooms with beer in hand – there has also been growing competition from other sporting codes.

Gone are the days when rugby and cricket were white sports that the black population had no interest in. Also the notion that every township boy would automatically grow up to be a soccer player, has gone flying out the window.

There are also other things such as music festivals that compete with sport for the population’s attention.

South African soccer bosses have been in slumber land for years and have been overtaken by events.

Now, it is time for them to wake up, smell the coffee and come up with solutions to the forever dwindling crowds.

Even with the amount of television, some matches are a sight for sore eyes because of the rows and rows of empty seats. One sometimes even notices how careful producers are in selecting crowd shots that concentrate on the small  section of the stadium that is heavily populated with jubilant fans.

Talk of not getting the full picture!

But they are obliged to do that because, as TV executives would put it “you cannot destroy a product that you sell”.

But the crux of the matter is: How do South African soccer administrators get spectators back onto the stadiums?

A number of excuses has been forwarded as to why people are shying away from going to the stadium but I think one of the main reasons is that the standard of our football is quite below par.

One can actually count in one hand the number of clubs in the league of 16 that one would feel justified to pay his hard-earned cash to watch play.

Soccer bosses need to ask themselves tough questions about the absence of spectators in order to arrive at the correct answers and come up with the right solutions.

One of the questions they need to ask themselves is: If I was not a club owner, would I pay to go and watch a match at the stadium? This would lead them to an answer of what then would they do to make their product attractive.

While this trend has been growing, I have made some serious observations.

I find it odd that somehow white and even Indian spectators have disappeared from our football grounds but no sooner clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City and Barcelona come to the country, you see quite a huge number of fans from these communities.

It is odd that when going to amateur and junior age-group tournaments in the suburbs, one sees quite a crowd of white parents cheering their kids on. Why don’t they then go and watch professional soccer?

My fear is that if this scourge is not dealt with, even television companies might soon find it hard to justify their spending the amounts they currently are on football. And what would then happen is a scary thought.

So it is up to club bosses to attend to this problem and come up with solutions before it adversely affects their businesses.

S’Busiso Mseleku is regarded as one of Africa's leading sports journalists and an authority on football. He has received some of the biggest awards in a career spanning well over 20 years. He is currently City Press Sports Editor.

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