Absa Premiership

EXCLUSIVE | Government instructs SAFA to play 'overarching' role in PSL return

Irvin Khoza and his executive committee address the media during the PSL EXCO and press conference at PSL Headquarters on March 16, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Irvin Khoza and his executive committee address the media during the PSL EXCO and press conference at PSL Headquarters on March 16, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Sydney Seshibedi
  • Minister of Arts, Culture and Sports Nathi Mthethwa on Sunday requested that the South African Football Association (SAFA) assume its expected role of ensuring compliance from Premier Soccer League (PSL) teams in their return to training protocol.
  • SAFA have clarified that competitive matches will only continue if all teams comply with safety protocols during the first phase of a return to training.
  • There have since been a number of challenges raised on whether teams are able to fully adhere to safety regulations ahead of a return to competitive matches.


Minister of Arts, Culture and Sports Nathi Mthethwa on Sunday requested that the South African Football Association (SAFA) assume its expected role of ensuring compliance from Premier Soccer League (PSL) teams in their return to training protocol.

In an official letter seen by Sport24, Mthethwa requested that SAFA - the governing body that controls football in South Africa - "play an overarching role" in monitoring compliance during the resumption of all football activities.

In line with the directive gazetted by government on 11 June in terms of the Disaster Management Act, both SAFA through its appointed compliance officers and the department of Arts, Culture and Sports will monitor the PSL's resumption of activities.

This will be done through appointed compliance officers to ensure that the PSL are compliant to all measures they have committed to.

The PSL is now being requested to submit all its compliance plans to SAFA for quality assessing which will then be forwarded to government to prepare its own monitoring plan.

SAFA has been requested to additionally provide its own detailed compliance monitoring plan as to how its compliance team will be monitoring PSL activities and any other football-related activities during lockdown.

It means that the PSL will now need to effectively report to SAFA in adhering to protocols.

The two institutions have recently reportedly been at loggerheads regarding resuming the league with Minister Mthethwa having to appeal to both to speak with one voice.

Shortly after a Joint Liaison Committee (JLC) was formed with members of both parties to formalise a plan to submit a proposal to government to safely resume football.

SAFA has sought to clarify that a return to competitive matches will only be allowed if all teams fully comply with the first phase of a return to training.

"Minister Mthethwa was clear in his directive when he gave the go-ahead for teams to resume training and that was that there needs to be full compliance," SAFA president Danny Jordaan says.

"What was also agreed was only that there would be a return to training which is the first phase of the resumption of football.

"You can't have on the one hand a government official in Nelson Mandela Bay Acting Mayor Thsonono Buyeye calling for a return to a Level 4 lockdown and on the other calls for the return of competitive sport.

"We can't have two differing opinions from the same government institution."

It is also being frowned upon by SAFA that the PSL are looking to police themselves without following the protocols that they have committed to. Testing results have not been made public with the league mostly silent as the resumption of the 2019/2020 campaign draws nearer.

World soccer body FIFA and its African subsidiary CAF had also made it clear that the safety of players is the most important factor to be taken into account in any attempts to resume football.

In England, Premier League clubs face similar safety measures with surprise inspections by health officials to ensure compliance by all teams. The league has also committed to making every Covid-19 positive test public knowledge.

This, the Premier League says, is in a bid to be as "transparent and open" as possible.

Locally, the PSL were given the go-ahead to return to training on 24 June when proposed safety measures were approved.

Since then, Sport24 has also revealed that adhering to these protocols may prove more difficult than first predicted, especially for teams less financially capable.

So far, Kaizer ChiefsBloemfontein CelticOrlando Pirates and Stellenbosch FC have all confirmed positive Covid-19 results - with seven cases in total from players and staff.

Many teams who have undergone Covid-19 testing have chosen not to announce the results of those tests.

Cape Town City - who reported zero positive results - became the first Absa Premiership team to resume training on 2 July.

Other teams have since returned to training including Golden Arrows, Bidvest Wits, Highlands Park, AmaZulu and SuperSport United with none revealing the results of their required Covid-19 tests.

Several other reported misdemeanours have since occurred, such as players pictured arriving for training without wearing masks as required.

Chippa United are being investigated for holding group training sessions before teams were given the necessary permission to resume training.

Teams are also believed to have immediately gone into full contact training when protocols outline that teams are to gradually transition from isolated training in small groups to eventually full contact.

As of 5 July, there is a total of 196 750 confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa with 8773 new cases and 173 deaths in the last 24 hours.

A day before on 4 July, South Africa recorded the highest number of new cases in a single day with 10 853.

Despite this Sun City is looking increasingly likely to be confirmed as host for the PSL's resumption plan with the league's executive committee reported to favour a World Cup-style base to host the remaining matches.

A meeting was held on 2 July between the North West provincial government and various stakeholders to finalise a joint proposal by Royal Bafokeng Sports and Sun City to act as a bio-safe environment.

This proposal is to then be submitted for approval by the PSL.

A date is yet to be announced for a return to competitive matches with it seeming increasingly unclear when it will be completely safe to resume play.

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