John Comitis. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
John Comitis. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

The SA Football Association (Safa) and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) have hit another impasse on a planned return to play‚ with club owners accusing the association of “moving the goalposts”.

PSL clubs are shocked at Safa informing the league that the referees will begin training from this week for the return to play in the Gauteng biologically safe environment, meaning an August 1 kickoff. The PSL says it needs six weeks to complete the season by August 31‚ and had hoped to kick off by July 18.

Cape Town City chair John Comitis said his belief is that Safa does not want to the PSL to return for the 2019/2020 season.

Safa acting CEO Tebogo Motlanthe denied this. He said the association’s major issue is not referee fitness but ensuring compliance‚ and a key meeting on the issue has not taken place — especially given that the association can be held liable should the plan for a biologically safe environment fail.

The PSL clubs‚ now operating without certainty of receiving their R2m monthly grants‚ have extended players’ contracts to August 31 and say going past that will be too expensive and complicated.

An angry Comitis said the impasse could scupper the process of getting the league back to play after clubs have spent large sums on testing and sanitisation.

“I’m in for R120‚000 on testing to return to play in this [bio-safe] bubble and respect the protocol‚” Comitis said.

“We expected to return around July 21. Safa was completely aware of this at every turn in the meetings in June — they mustn’t talk nonsense‚ because I was in those JLC [joint liaison committee] meetings.

“And at every turn we tried to pin them down to a date around the middle of July‚ and every time the minutes would come back recording August 1.

“What is the worry about the referees’ fitness? They have 10 days. And you saw [former referee] Ace Ncobo’s comments [in a report in The Citizen] that a referee is like a professional footballer — that’s the nature of his job, to stay fit.

“Even if 70% are fit‚ even if Safa want us to substitute officials at half time‚ we are prepared to look at that. But anything and everything is blocked.

“The government gave Safa a letter to oversee this thing‚ and that’s a problem because they’re not co-operating in any way. All they do is delay and derail.

“In the meantime the government has been to our grounds to inspect and been satisfied‚ and given us a letter from June 23 to start training.”

Comitis said his belief is Safa does not want the PSL season to be completed. “If we sort out the referees then it will be something else. They don’t want us to return to football.”

Comitis emphasised that if Safa keeps to its word of August 1‚ he believes that date is workable to complete the league and Nedbank Cup‚ which is at the semifinal stage.

Motlanthe denied Safa is moving the goalposts. He said more important is that a meeting by the PSL’s chief compliance officer‚ Michael Murphy‚ and his association counterparts‚ Dr Thulani Ngwenya and Mlungisi Ncame‚ has not taken place.

“I believe the refereeing issue is a side issue‚” Motlanthe said.

“The major issue we are talking about with the league is compliance. Immediately we received a letter from the sports minister [Nathi Mthethwa] that we must oversee compliance, we wrote to the league and said‚ ‘Let’s meet and deal with compliance’.”

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