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Chippa take on Richards Bay in contentious PSL playoffs

Chippa United players celebrate a goal during the DStv Premiership match between Kaizer Chiefs and Chippa United at FNB Stadium on 28 April 2021 in Johannesburg. Chippa United are set to clash with Richards Bay United on 26 June 2021.(Photo: Muzi Ntombela / BackpagePix / Gallo Images)

For the last few weeks, South African football fans have had to acquaint themselves with legal jargon as local football has been played out in the courts. Chippa United and Richards Bay’s playoff will be a welcome buffer from all the court drama.

After two embarrassing moments for the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and South African football as a whole, local fans are finally set to watch some actual football when Chippa United clash with Richards Bay United.

Royal AM, who are still locked in a legal battle with PSL over who has earned rightful direct promotion to the DStv Premiership from the GladAfrica Championship, did not pitch for their two promotion/relegation playoff fixtures this week.

The Durban-based Royal were supposed to play Chippa on Tuesday, 22 June. The club’s team bus arrived at Chatsworth stadium on the day, before turning back and leaving again.

On Thursday, 24 June, they were scheduled to play Richards Bay. Again, the club owned by KwaZulu-Natal businesswoman and reality TV star Shauwn Mkhize, was a no-show.

According to point number 15.2 in the PSL’s rule book, “where a match is not played because of the late or non-arrival of a Member Club team, or of both teams, the offending Member Club or Member Clubs will be charged with misconduct.”

Rule 15.3 goes on to say “where a Member Club is found guilty in terms of Rule 15.2 its opponent in that match will receive a ‘walk-over’ (a 3-0 win), unless the Disciplinary Committee considers that a different sanction may be more appropriate.”

That means through their actions Royal have effectively donated three points to both Chippa and Richards Bay — pending action by the league’s disciplinary committee. However, according to the Durban club, the matches are in contempt of the court and should not be happening to begin with.

Defiant

The league and Royal are at loggerheads owing to an order to interdict the playoffs handed down by acting judge Justice Nyathi at the Johannesburg high court. This pending the club’s leave to appeal a ruling by Gauteng deputy judge president, Roland Sutherland.

On 12 June Sutherland handed down a ruling which endorsed a finding by Hilton Epstein, an arbitrator provided to the league by the South African Football Association (Safa) to resolve the case, declaring Sekhukhune United as champions by awarding them three points dating back to a match played in January 2021.

Sekhukhune were awarded the points following Polokwane City being found guilty of misconduct. This came after their failure to include five under-23 players in their matchday squad, as is required by the league for teams in the second tier.

This decision removed Royal from the summit of the Championship and made Sekhukhune champions by two points.    

However, Royal sought leave to appeal and Nyathi granted them an interdict, pending the appeal. When Sutherland dismissed their application to appeal a week ago, the club indicated that it would be taking the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

“I’ll fight for my team, this league won’t start, my gloves are off. I’ll fight for my boys because I believe they did their best,” Mkhize has previously said.

Meanwhile, according to the league, their understanding is that the interdict was only at play prior to Sutherland dismissing Royal’s application to appeal his ruling. As soon as it was heard, the interdict fell away.

“The PSL was advised that the order of Nyathi AJ of June 15 2021 suspending the commencement of the play-offs ‘pending the final determination of Royal AM’s application for leave to appeal and/or appeal’ no longer applied,” the league said before proceeding with the first game of the playoffs.

Since then, the PSL’s silence on the matter has been deafening, as it has watched from the shadows while Royal openly defies it.

Playoffs

In the first game of the playoffs, Premiership side Chippa beat Championship bronze medallists Richards Bay United 2-1 in Gqeberha. Following the double Royal no-show, the Chilli Boys and the Natal Rich Boys are effectively on six and three points respectively.

Should they secure another victory over the KZN side, the side that finished 15th in the last top-flight campaign will take an unassailable nine-point lead on the mini playoff log, seeing them retain their Premiership status.

As for Richards Bay, a win is crucial for them to keep their hopes of coming into the big league alive. DM

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