Absa Premiership

EXPLAINER | What the postponement of CAF competitions means for the PSL

Absa Premiership trophy (Gallo Images)
Absa Premiership trophy (Gallo Images)
  • CAF on Tuesday announced its decision to postpone a number of continental tournaments to allow domestic competitions to be completed.
  • The announcement comes as a welcome boost to the PSL who will be given more time to complete the Absa Premiership.
  • The Absa Premiership now has the flexibility to end at a later date, with the following season being able to begin next year without any conflict in scheduling.

The announcement by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) on Tuesday to postpone a number of continental competitions is a much-needed boost to allow domestic leagues on the continent to be completed.

Next year's Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament, set to be hosted by Cameroon, has now been postponed to January 2022 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

CAF president Ahmad Ahmad said African football's governing body took the decision as "health was the main priority" while adding that "the peak of the pandemic has not been reached yet".

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) executive committee held a meeting on Tuesday where it reportedly informed FIFA of its desired dates to resume and complete the 2019/2020 campaign.

PLS chairperson Irvin Khoza, during the initial onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, confirmed that the league at first aimed to complete the current season by an initially flexible 31 July deadline before that changed to 31 August.

Already, we've seen the resumption of most of the top European leagues in a behind closed doors format with strict safety measures in place.

The key difference to football being allowed to resume across Europe to locally, though, is that the number of new infections continues to decrease rapidly in Europe during its summer season.

However, CAF's decision to follow UEFA's lead - by postponing EURO 2020 - is a move of solidarity that reaffirms its commitment to create a space to allow domestic club competitions to be completed.

This is welcomed news for the PSL with many teams suffering from the financial implications of the suspension of football. It also comes as a boost to fans who have been starved of live action.

As of Tuesday, 31 July, the current number of infections in South Africa is at 151 209 with 6 945 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours.

New infections continue to rise at an alarming rate with Health Minister, Zweli Mkhize saying "the worst is yet to come" with a predicted peak in September.

These figures make it increasingly difficult to find any justification in resuming football as we head into the "eye of the storm" with South Africa in the middle of its winter season.

Flexible return dates

As previously reported by Sport24, a number of teams have reported positive cases since undergoing a first round of Covid-19 testing ahead of a return to training.

Some teams have even decided against making their test results public.

With the test results of many other teams yet to be known, a worst case scenario could see one team experience a high percentage of positive cases, forcing the league to abort any plans to return to training.

If nationally there was also a spike in deaths - with Mkhize warning that another hard lockdown is a "possibility" - the league could then now put plans to return on hold until after the peak.

Teams who were also struggling to comply within a short space of time to all the safety protocols would now be able to modify their training facilities before a concrete resumption date is announced.

Physical demands on players

Delaying all continental competitions will not only give domestic leagues every opportunity to be completed, but with continued uncertainty regarding international travel, it removes any potential safety risks.

Players like Liverpool's title-winning duo Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are now able to defend their Premier League title without missing a month of action.

The added physical demands put on football players competing at next year's AFCON tournament would also have been a tough ask.

After more than three months out, players would need to firstly return to domestic action until possibly the end of August and then immediately begin the 2020/2021 season in a short turn-around time. Then be required to take part in the continental showpiece in January.

Domestic leagues now have the flexibility to end at a later date, with the following season being able to begin in January 2021 without any conflicting fixture scheduling.

The overriding benefit, though, is that the PSL now has the additional option to not needlessly put player's lives at risk if all determining factors point against resuming.

The PSL could now simply wait until a later date, when it would be safer to resume.
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