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Government gives green light for PSL return

Government gives green light for PSL return
Premier Soccer League action. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images)

The Absa Premiership will now be able to conclude after a three-month hiatus.

After more than 100 days since the Premier Soccer League (PSL) was halted due to Covid-19, the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture released a statement on Wednesday indicating that football can resume in the country.

“The plans of the Premier Soccer League have been approved, considering the mitigation strategies and plans in relation to the Level 3 risk adjusted strategy in addressing the Covid-19 pandemic,” the statement read.

The statement said that not only has the return to training been approved, but the return to play as well. This despite Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa announcing on 30 May 2020 that only professional non-contact sport would be allowed to resume competitive matches under Level 3 of the lockdown, and that contact sports would only be allowed for training.

The chief director of communications at the department, Mickey Modisane, confirmed to Daily Maverick that an exception had been made for football to resume play, despite being a contact sport.

“They can resume training and also play. So their plans have made reservation for also resumption of play. But regarding when they can resume play, you can find out from the Joint Liaison Committee of both Safa and PSL, who can give you a proper outline,” said Modisane.

Mthethwa, in the statement, said the plans submitted by the PSL had been carefully scrutinised by health authorities as well as the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), adding that the plans “meet and in some instances exceed the required protocol for a safe return to training and to play in a biologically safe environment”.

The league was halted in March 2020, with Kaizer Chiefs leading the pack while Mamelodi Sundowns were in hot pursuit and Black Leopards were in the relegation zone. The Nedbank Cup was also in the semi-final stage when play was stopped due to the coronavirus. 

Now all of this can come to a conclusion, while saving the league a loss of broadcast funds.

The announcement also means that the South African Football Association (Safa) has had to concede. It was always their view that the only time it would be safe to return to play was Level 1 of the lockdown. But after some cajoling from the PSL, they finally gave in.

“We still believe that the safest time to play football is at Level 1. That’s why all amateur teams can only start at level one. However, we had a special request from the PSL to say, can we consider the issue of contracts, the livelihoods of players,” said Thulani Ngwenya, chief medical officer of Safa, in a recent interview on SAfm.

Ngwenya was part of a task team formed by the PSL and Safa to draft a way forward on the resumption of football. He said having considered the pleas of the PSL, they decided to work on a document to share with the government.

“That’s when we developed this document which we presented to the government. In the document, we have accommodated professional football’s request. So now that’s why we can play at any time when the government deems fit,” said Ngwenya.

PSL teams have already started internal testing as they prepare for a return to training, which will be gradual and systematic. This testing has seen positive results come out of Kaizer Chiefs, Bloemfontein Celtic and Stellenbosch FC over the last few days.

The PSL is expected to flesh out the details on resumption of both training and play soon. DM

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