Mbalula sees red over stadium conditions

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Johannesburg - Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has slammed stadium managers for prioritising music concerts over big football matches.

He singled out the National Stadium, which hosted the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert on Saturday, as an example of “reckless management” of venues.

“Concerts can take place on condition that the pitch and the stadium are protected.

“I don’t understand how government can spend so much money building these stadiums, and after a tournament, we’re told that we’ve got nothing to do with these stadiums,” said Mbalula.

Complaints about the rough, sandy pitch at the Mbombela Stadium in Mbombela, where Africa Cup of Nations Group C matches were played, appear to have sparked Mbalula’s concerns.

Mbalula said that although stadiums generated income from concerts, “stadium management at times doesn’t care, and in particular the National Stadium, who arrogantly said they can’t do without concerts”.

He had earlier explained that the problems at Mbombela Stadium had been caused by something that had attacked the grass on the pitch.

Mbombela Stadium management were quoted in a football magazine as saying recent bad weather had led to an algae outbreak on the pitch. The management told the magazine that loose sand had to be used in a bid to kill the algae.

This is not the first time a bad pitch has been at the centre of controversy before a big football match.

Last year, National Stadium management were under pressure to get the pitch ready for a major football match after it was damaged during rock band Linkin Park’s concert.

The Afcon local organising committee (LOC) has indicated it was told it was too late to raise concerns with National Stadium management last year because by then the Red Hot Chili Peppers rock concert had already been booked.

LOC chairman Mvuzo Mbebe said last year that a mixture of natural grass and artificial fibres would be planted in a bid to ensure the pitch was not affected by the concert.

The LOC had not responded to questions at the time of going to press.

Meanwhile, Mbalula has urged South Africans to continue supporting Afcon and to attend the remaining matches even though Bafana Bafana have been eliminated after losing to Mali at the weekend.

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