Soccer

PSL and Safa to discuss a return to play proposal this week

By Craig Ray 10 May 2020
Caption
Kaiser Chiefs fans wear decorated 'makarapa' miner's hats during the 'Soweto Derby' match between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs at Orlando Stadium in Soweto. (Photo: EPA / Jon Hrusa)

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) on Sunday sent a proposal to the South African Football Association (Safa) with detail on how to resume the league at level three lockdown. The PSL is pushing for the league to resume as soon as possible after suspension due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

All contact sport is currently suspended in South Africa and is unlikely to resume before the government’s risk-adjusted approach drops to level one. South Africa is currently at level four, the second most restrictive level of the five-tier system.

Safa has made its position clear several times – it will follow the government’s lead and only consider a return to play when level one is reached.

But the PSL is one of several sporting codes that is desperate to return to play or face the risk of losing hundreds of millions if the season cannot be completed.

The league held two days of meetings last week to come up with a proposal at the urging of sports minister Nathi Mthethwa. At a briefing last week, the minister told Safa and the PSL to work together and “guide government” about an earlier return to play. 

“I have been in contact with both the Safa president [Danny] Jordaan and PSL chairperson [Irvin] Khoza and said to them that I need their wise counsel as leaders in football on the reopening or softening of lockdown [regulations] with our risk-adjusted strategy,” Mthethwa said.

“We will be dependent on SAFA as the mother body of football in the country and the PSL, with the hope they will guide government.”

This comment came as a surprise to some, considering the clear directives in the risk-adjustment strategy about contact sports.

The PSL though, took it as a signal to push for a way to complete the league season, which sees Kaiser Chiefs top the standings by four points over Mamelodi Sundowns.

On Sunday Safa confirmed that it had received a proposal from the PSL after its two-day workshop last week. As a result, Safa will hold a joint liaison committee meeting with the PSL on Tuesday to consider the details of the proposal.

But when Daily Maverick asked Safa president Danny Jordaan about the potential to play football at level three, he reiterated that “we have stated our position.” It’s an indication that Safa won’t budge easily, although the door has been opened by the sports minister himself.

The world’s football governing body Fifa, has not yet published formal return-to-play guidelines, although it has issued other regulatory guidelines for members to follow as a result of the pandemic.

Almost all major leagues across the globe have been suspended due to the pandemic. The English Premier League will meet on Monday to discuss its ‘Project Restart’.

Currently, the English season is set to recommence on 12 June, under strict Covid-19 restrictions. Matches are scheduled to be played behind closed doors at 10 neutral venues. But that plan has come under scrutiny in recent days with over 500 deaths per day as a result of Covid-19 in the United Kingdom last week.

Players have been told to report for training on 18 May and will train in groups of six with strict physical distancing protocols. It’s unclear at this stage if the PSL’s proposal contains similar protocols.

The Bundesliga, Germany’s top division, is set to restart next weekend despite a spate of three positive coronavirus tests at second-division club Dynamo Dresden.

“We are not changing the goal at the moment,” German Football League (DFL) chief executive Christian Seifert told ZDF television late on Saturday. “But if other whole squads are ordered into quarantine then at some point this will no longer be feasible.” DM

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