THE 2021/22 Vodacom Premier League must be ended prematurely because it is unlikely that the Covid-19 pandemic will be under control any time soon, teams have said.
The call comes after Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro on Sunday extended the suspension of sports.
Local sports have been on suspension since January on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic. While he announced that the country had moved from the orange to purple level of Covid-19 restrictions, Majoro said sports remained suspended.
The Vodacom Premier League was halted in January after only four matches. As things stand, the league which normally ends during the first week of May could end at a much later stage.
And premier league teams this week expressed mixed feelings over the continued suspension with some suggesting that the season should just be cancelled.
Lioli president Lebohang Thotanyana said it was likely that the season would go way beyond May because it takes at least six weeks for teams to start preparations for resumption of action.
Thotanyana said extending the suspension was the only sensible move. In fact, he opined that teams should start deliberating on another premature ending of the season.
“The only practical move is for all stakeholders to discuss how we can end this season because as things stand, I don’t see us finishing it,” Thotanyana said.
“The reason is that when soccer action resumes, teams must adhere to lots of Civid-19 regulations including regular testing. Who is going to pay for all that and other logistics?”
Thotanyana is however, unhappy that the Premier League Management Committee (PLMC) has been quiet.
“The PLMC has never said anything. It has not called for a chairmen’s forum just to discuss with us on how we can move forward. It is frustrating because we have players who must be paid yet we are not generating any revenue from gate takings.”
Sefotha-fotha vice president Hlompho Maitin also shared Thotanyana’s sentiments.
“As things stand, the only solution is for us to cancel this season and wait to start over when Covid-19 is no longer a threat.
“Our season normally ends in May and if have we only played four matches in March, by May we will still not have finished the first round. There are also chances that the league will be suspended again, if it resumes anytime soon, in the winter season,” Maitin said.
The most difficult consideration authorities must grapple with is the players’ welfare.
“It is a difficult situation but we must prepare on the way forward. We must also consider players, some of whose contracts are ending soon.”
For his part, Matlama president Paballo Makakole said ending the league prematurely again this season is a difficult decision which requires the input of all stakeholders.
The league was ended just after 18 matches last season and Bantu were crowned the champions, a decision which was challenged by Matlama before the Disputes and Protests Committee (DISPROCO), the appeal court and the court of arbitration. The appeals were however, all in vain.
“The current situation is costly for teams because they must pay players and staff yet there is no revenue being generated. They have contracts which we must honour.
“Teams still need to meet with the PLMC and sponsors to map the way forward. We should all sit down and agree on what must be done. This will also help us avoid conflicts that happened last year. Consultation with the rules and regulations should be done. It should be done this early.
“Football is no longer just about recreation; we now pay players and we have sponsors who must be satisfied by the mileage that they are getting.”
While teams must indeed wait for the PLMC to drive processes, it is disappointing that the committee and LeFA were working in silos, Bantu president Leuta John Leuta said.
“Our problem is that no one is engaging us and we really don’t know what is happening. It looks like the PLMC and LeFA are all working in silos, so it makes things difficult for everyone.
“We are paying players and our teams have run out of money.”
It is now incumbent upon the government to ensure that footballers and officials are vaccinated from Covid-19 early for action to resume early.
“If the season is cancelled and we let go of our players, I am afraid some of the teams might not recover from that.
“However, at the end of the day, we all need to sit down as stakeholders and decide on the way forward. The situation is worrying because we also have to satisfy sponsors,” Leuta said.