OPINION | How the PSL could resume amid the coronavirus pandemic

Irvin Khoza (Getty Images)
Irvin Khoza (Getty Images)

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) faces a complex conundrum in attempting to salvage the 2019/20 Absa Premiership season as South Africa continues to be gripped by the coronavirus pandemic.

This unprecedented crisis the country is facing has highlighted just how insignificant sport is when there is a genuine threat of people losing their lives.

Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chair of the ministerial advisory group on Covid-19 said South Africa might still see an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases once the lockdown is lifted.

Without a vaccine expected for another 12-18 months, the one certainty is that soccer matches would be staged without fans.

But when the various leagues do resume, how will this look?

Sport24 understands that the PSL, led by chairperson Irvin Khoza, is exploring different options in resuming the Absa Premiership and GladAfrica Championship.

One option is to stage matches consisting of teams based in the same province in a "festival of football" to accelerate the turnaround of fixtures.

Before the South African Football Association (SAFA) released a strongly-worded statement suspending all football-related activities, it is believed teams were being requested to travel to other provinces for matches to continue behind closed doors.

Minister of Sport Nathi Mthethwa even released an ill-advised statement giving the go-ahead for games to continue without spectators.

This could see all 16 top-flight teams based in "hosting cities" with matches taking place at venues such as the FNB Stadium, Loftus Versfeld and Moses Mabhida Stadium.

Internationally, teams in Germany have already begun training with an aim to resuming the Bundesliga by early May.

Bundesliga officials estimate 240 people inside stadiums - including coaches, medical personnel, match officials, ball boys and production staff as well as the players themselves - will be needed for each match.

Even if the PSL were to halve this number to 120, it's still a long way off the 50-person limit allowed for mass gatherings.

Exploring this unlikely scenario further could mean a team like Kaizer Chiefs will face Mamelodi Sundowns and Bidvest Wits in quick succession at the FNB Stadium over a match-day weekend to help complete their fixtures.

Another hurdle would be the logistical challenge of teams from other provinces such as the Western Cape, Free State and Limpopo crossing provincial borders to centralised locations.

World Cup-style camps

The English Premier League were rumoured to be exploring the possibility of finishing their season with 'World Cup-style' camps in June and up to five matches a day.

This was before later releasing a statement, amid public scrutiny, distancing itself from the idea and reaffirming prioritising player safety over resuming the league.

These quarantined camps could be a possibility locally due to South Africa boasting the necessary infrastructure after hosting the successful 2010 Soccer World Cup.

FIFA is allowing an indefinite extension to allow leagues around the world to complete their suspended seasons.

2020/21 campaign

If curtailed by time constraints, a possibility could be to shorten next season to one round of fixtures to be able to declare a champion.

This format could take many variations with teams possibly entering into a playoff format consisting of the top eight teams to determine a champion, CAF qualifiers and top eight standings.

At the same time, a playoff involving the bottom three teams could take place with the bottom two finishers automatically being relegated.

Many leagues across the world, including the PSL, will be watching Germany closely as to how they go about restarting their league.

A key difference is Germany's testing regimen being by far the best in Europe. Their excellent medical facilities also mean the healthcare system wouldn't be strained by administering tests on players and providing medical staff at matches.

The lockdown regulations ordered by President Cyril Ramaphosa and the absence of a vaccine makes any chance of resuming any form of sport currently near impossible.

Failing that, it would simply be the wrong decision to attempt to force the hosting of sporting events unless once absolutely safe to do so.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Fri 27 Nov 20 20:00 PM (SAST)
Maritzburg United
SuperSport United
Harry Gwala Stadium
Sat 28 Nov 20 15:30 PM (SAST)
TS Galaxy
Golden Arrows
Mbombela Stadium
Sat 28 Nov 20 15:30 PM (SAST)
Orlando Pirates
Orlando Stadium
Wed 25 Nov 20
Bloemfontein Celtic 1
Black Leopards 0
Tue 24 Nov 20
Swallows 1
Kaizer Chiefs 0
Sun 22 Nov 20
Mamelodi Sundowns 4
AmaZulu 3
1. Swallows
2. Mamelodi Sundowns
3. Orlando Pirates
4. Baroka