Picture: 123RF/BOWIE 15
Picture: 123RF/BOWIE 15

Maritzburg United chairperson Farook Kadodia  said there could be one positive spin-off of the economic downturn as a result of the coronavirus pandemic: Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs will have to focus more on developing young talent.

With SA’s economy predicted by the World Bank to shrink by 7.1% as a result of the effects of Covid-19‚ football will not be spared.

The economic bubble enjoyed by the PSL that came as a result of the rich broadcast and sponsorship deals clinched before and after the hosting of the 2010 World Cup is expected to deflate‚ and it is unclear to what extent.

Maritzburg had already begun to move towards a more sustainable model of producing players from their academy rather than buying personnel season after season‚ with ex-coaches Ernst Middendorp and brothers Fadlu and Maahier Davids improving the club’s academy.

This resulted in success on the field too‚ with a highest fourth-placed Premiership finish in 2017-18‚ and cup finals in the 2018 Nedbank Cup and 2019 Telkom Knockout‚ though United did also fight relegation last season.

They bounced back and were fifth in the Premiership when the season was suspended in March.

“We have gone a long way [advancing development] at Maritzburg — the emergence of young players was important to our success in the past three years‚” Kadodia said.

“There’s no doubt about it‚ it is the route to go to promote young players‚ but you’ve also got to have experienced players to guide the young.

“The important thing is that‚ at the moment‚ I think a lot of clubs will have a complete review of the situation.

“No doubt about it, there will be financial impacts on most clubs. And the only way to solve that is to promote more young players.”

Cape Town City owner John Comitis suggested cancelling relegation and promotion for a few seasons to allow clubs more freedom‚ while they recover economically‚ of promoting young players. Kadodia echoed that sentiment.

“We need to look at the comfort of having a window where clubs can look at young players with an open mind without having fears of relegation‚” he said.

“That’ll be a good point where we need probably a season or two to give players the comfort of promoting players‚ rather than having fears of relegation.”

The 2010 World Cup economic bubble played a big role in the Premiership becoming one of the most-watched Africa leagues. But a negative side effect was that the majority of clubs put a larger emphasis on buying than producing players.

Development of players requires an initial economic outlay from teams‚ but once it is operational in an effective manner it is a far more sustainable option.

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