League of death and mayhem deserves a state crackdown
Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa must call a full-blown commission of inquiry, with the power to subpoena
The Premier Soccer League (PSL), with their dragging of feet and weak action on the Loftus Versfeld pitch invasion fiasco, and continued apparent skimping on costs for stadium security, must shoulder a large part of the responsibility for the disgraceful scenes at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Saturday night.
The security guard who had his head kicked in was let down by his employers for not providing him and his colleagues with the adequate training and strength in numbers to be able to deal effectively with the pitch invasion and scenes of violence which have become too common in the league’s matches.This especially given that Saturday night’s game had the obvious potential to boil over, so every additional security dimension that could possibly be provided was needed.
Because what is becoming clear from the increasing incidences of fans being hurt or killed at PSL matches, and of an inability to stop pitch invasions, is that the league’s stadium security is inadequate.It might cover the requirements of the Sasrea Act (Safety at Sports and Recreational Events Act) but, given that there evidently is a greater than normal problem, greater than normal measures surely are needed. And those have clearly not been put in place.
The security guard also might, once he recovers, God willing, have an argument that Saturday night’s scenes at Moses Mabhida that followed Kaizer Chiefs’ 2-0 Nedbank Cup semifinal defeat against Free State Stars were influenced by the conflicting signals sent out by the PSL’s disciplinary measures involving similar events, as recently as in the preceding week, and going far further back.The previous time scenes as extreme as Saturday’s were seen was when Orlando Pirates supporters invaded the pitch, followed by Mamelodi Sundowns fans, in the 6-0 thrashing of Bucs at Loftus Versfeld on February 10 2017.
That it has taken 15 months for the PSL’s disciplinary committee (DC) to finally sentence just one of the parties so far, Pirates, is inexcusable, regardless of the supposed complexity of the case. That Pirates were handed just two matches behind closed doors, which, with the one-match suspended, resulted in the bare minimum of a single game, equally inexcusable.Surely by no coincidence, that decision came out five days before Saturday’s reoccurrence of the same scenes – a pitch invasion with violence and destruction of property.
Adding to the conflicting signals sent by the PSL’s DC, Chiefs, two days later, in a verdict that took just 13 days to arrive at, were fined a steep R250,000, with R200,000 suspended, for their fans’ far milder scenes of unruliness – throwing missiles and uprooting and throwing temporary security fencing – after Amakhosi’s 3-0 defeat against Chippa United at FNB Stadium on April 7.At a broader level, the conflicts of interest in the leadership structure of the PSL cannot be ignored in this matter.
PSL chairperson Irvin Khoza, also Pirates’ chairperson, went on radio in March and said that at Loftus, just because the instigators were wearing Pirates jerseys did not necessarily mean they were Buccaneers supporters. He had dropped hints previously, too, that Sundowns, as the home team responsible for providing security, should bear most of the culpability.
This sends messages to the PSL’s prosecutor, Nande Becker, and those who sit on the DC, whether those were influential or not.That Lamontville Golden Arrows chairperson Matho Madlala continues to serve as acting CEO two-and-a-half years since being appointed – against company law that an acting position be no longer than six months – represents a conflict of interest.
When the PSL conducts itself in this manner in the boardroom, how does it expect better from those in the stands?
Which is not to excuse the supporters.
Chiefs have gone trophyless for three years, and tempers flared in the stands this month, and not just at coach Steve Komphela. The team that Amakhosi have put out in the past three years has been less than a poor man’s version of what the country’s greatest football club has offered, and a betrayal of their proud, giant history. We get it.But what does that have to do with that beaten security guard?
What injustice did the cameras of the company who bring the game to supporters on television ever do to Chiefs or their supporters? What national conversation needs to be had about anger increasingly justifying in the minds of the angered senseless violence and destruction of property?SuperSport, though, have questions of their own to ask themselves concerning culpability of what happened at Moses Mabhida. After Loftus there was no public condemnation of the destruction of their property, apparently for fear of ruffling their cosy relationship with the PSL.
But what this tragic issue essentially comes down to is that until the PSL takes proper action against offending clubs, doesn’t be seen to be dragging its feet doing it, and most importantly puts in place adequate, well-trained security at matches who can snuff out these things before they start, this problem will continue and lives will be in danger at football matches.
Sponsors must spur the league into action
In the past three years the signs have been there from a supporter shot dead in a pitch invasion at a Chiefs-Chippa United match in Port Elizabeth in 2015, to Loftus, to two fans dying at the 2017 Carling Black Label Cup, to now Moses Mabhida, plus the countless smaller incidents in between. How many incidents must happen for the PSL to recognise that they have an epidemic security problem at stadiums?And for the league, too, to recognise that it will not take half measures, skimping on costs, and favouring certain clubs, but serious, expensive action to resolve the problem and save lives?
It is partners such as SuperSport, and the league’s headline sponsors – Absa, Nedbank, Telkom and MTN – who can spur the league into action more than anyone with public announcements of displeasure, and private warnings of discontinuation of deals should concrete, effective action not be seen to be taken.
Sports Minister Tokozile Xasa should reinstate the cancelled ministerial inquiry, and make it a full-blown commission of inquiry, with the power to subpoena, into the deaths of the two fans at the Black Label, and expand its terms to include PSL stadium security.
Because this is just football, and people should not be being hurt, far less killed, for their love of it.