Sport fans are keen to return to stadiums for games and events.
Sport fans are keen to return to stadiums for games and events.
Image: Gallo Images

It is becoming increasingly likely there will be no spectators at FNB Stadium when Kaizer Chiefs host traditional rivals Orlando Pirates in the Soweto derby on Saturday.

Amakhosi welcome the Buccaneers to the giant calabash in Joburg in what will possibly be the fifth derby to be played behind closed doors since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic early last year.       

Stadium Management CEO Bertie Grobbelaar said at the moment they are preparing for the SA football showcase as if it will once again be played without spectators.

“I am waiting for the club and the Premier Soccer League (PSL) with regards to that issue of [allowing] spectators [to attend the derby]. But as we sit here, our planning is for the match to go ahead without spectators,” said Grobbelaar, whose company manages the 2010 Soccer World Cup venue.

The PSL had not responded to inquiries by Tuesday afternoon.

Recently, the government gave the green light for 2,000 fans to be allowed at the same Johannesburg venue when Bafana Bafana hosted Ethiopia in a 2022 World Cup qualifier. The PSL followed suit when the MTN8 final between Mamelodi Sundowns and Cape Town City in Durban was played in front of 2,000 people.

Asked if they will welcome 2,000 fans for this weekend’s derby match, Chiefs said they will be directed by the league.

“The return of supporters to matches is not a club decision. We will wait for a directive from the PSL,” said Chiefs spokesperson Vina Maphosa.

Looking at the situation, industry experts who did not want to be named said it is not advisable to have 2,000 spectators at the stadium for a high-profile match like the Soweto derby.

“As things stand now, both the league and host club Chiefs have not pronounced on this issue, but it is safe to say that having 2,000 fans poses a serious security threat,” the expert said.

“The concern here is that if you say 2,000 fans must come to the stadium, there is a possibility of many people outside wanting to enter the stadium.”

Over the past few weeks, Cricket SA  opened up for fans for the T20 Challenge and 4-Day Franchise Series even though the turnout was poor.

Rugby will welcome fans for the first time in a professional match during the Carling Champions match between a select team from the Currie Cup and Kenya at Loftus stadium in Pretoria on Saturday.

Since Covid-19 began to wreak havoc with life across the globe early last year, the two Soweto giants have met twice in the DStv Premiership, twice in the MTN8 competition and once during the off-season Carling Black Label tournament.

Going into Saturday’s clash, the two sides will be looking to catch up with early pacesetters Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United.