Why we shouldn’t be surprised at Chippa United’s willingness to move to PE

2014-05-20 12:41

Newly promoted Premier Soccer League (PSL) side, Chippa United announced on Monday that negotiations with the Eastern Cape government and the Nelson Mandela bay municipality to move the Phillipi-based club to Port Elizabeth (PE) had been unsuccessful. The announcement came after weeks of speculation about the future of the club; with many reports suggesting that Chippa United had already reached a deal to move the club. While willingness to move away from Cape Town may come as a surprise to many soccer lovers in the Mother City, I for one am not.

After first gaining promotion into the PSL in the 2012/13 season Chippa United has earned a bit of a reputation for making bold management decisions. In their debut season in the PSL the club had no less than five coaches occupying the hot-seat after each ones predecessor had been dismissed following a string of poor results (one of which has recently won the PSL title with Sundowns as an assistant coach – Manqoba Mngqithi). The club has also recently decided not to offer Vladislav Heric, the coach that helped the club get back to the PSL, a new contract.

Large business owners, the City of Cape Town and its residence are also at fault here. In the country’s second largest city which is the hub of South Africa’s tourism industry and houses the top asset management and insurance firms, Soccer teams have largely struggled to get corporate sponsorship. The general consensus is that support for the sport is waning and the type support does not match their corporate image.

This is relatively true, however if you speak to anyone who has attended soccer tournaments and games held in Cape Town’s townships, they will tell you about overwhelming support the game receives and the tremendous amount of undiscovered talent on show. Cape Town has been home to many Bafana Bafana stars, but these players often leave the city lured by bigger contracts with teams that have stronger corporate backing. With regard to corporate image these industries have benefited immensely from the lower to middle-class citizens of the city and there is still ample room for growth into this segment of the population.

The City of Cape Town has on a number of occasions made its lack of support for soccer and development of sport in low income areas clear. This was evident in municipality’s reluctance to support the construction of the Cape Town stadium in the run-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup and in the multi-million rand upgrade to the athletics stadium adjacent to the icon soccer stadium. A couple of years ago Johan Fourie wrote an interesting blog about this. In it Johan argues that the City could have made a better investment by building a multi-purpose athletics stadium in one of the city’s major townships and use the highly expensive land to strengthen the city’s economy.

The willingness of Chippa United to leave Cape Town is to a large extent disheartening, considering the amount of money the club spent in upgrades to their Phillipi base a few years ago. The club is perfectly situated to attract township residence and soccer fanatics that are unable to travel to the Cape Town stadium for soccer games. The Club could also take advantage of the large pool of young talent in Cape Town and build a formidable youth structure, such as the one present at Ajax Cape Town.

Chippa United have not ruled out the possibility of moving to PE in the future and have said that they are committed to building a strong support base in the Eastern Cape. While moving to the PE may be a more financially viable option for the club, it leaves one deeply concerned about the development of sport in general in the city’s lower income communities.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and no one else.

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