Cape Town - The Mother City is breathing a collective sigh of relief as Chippa United have decided to continue playing out of Cape Town rather than relocate to Port Elizabeth.
The Philippi-based club won promotion to the Premier Soccer League (PSL) this season after winning the National First Division.
Club boss Siviwe “Chippa” Mpengesi subsequently broke the news that he was thinking about moving his club to PE to make it more “commercially viable”.
Yesterday, though, Mpengesi said the club would be staying in the Cape - for now.
“We will no longer be relocating the team to Port Elizabeth,” said Mpengesi.
“Our proposal was appealing to the people of the Eastern Cape, who had an interest in seeing us playing at Nelson Mandela Stadium. We were motivated by their interest and have the development of football in the Eastern Cape at heart.
“But we will not be lost to the Eastern Cape... there are plans of bringing the club to that province - one way or another.
“We are committed to expanding our footprint to the Eastern Cape,” added Mpengesi who is from that region, but moved to the Cape in 1996.
Mpengesi’s announcement was certainly good news for the other Cape club in the PSL, Ajax Cape Town.
“Chippa staying in Cape Town is a good thing,” said Ajax’s public relations officer Shooz Mekuto. “We are desperate to have two or three teams in the Cape. It makes the interest in the sport bigger and better.
“At the moment, everything is focused on Gauteng, because most of the clubs come from there. In the PSL, you are recognised based on the concentration, and contribution, of clubs in a province.
“As you can see, in recent times, with the Cape having only one PSL team, many local players have left to play up north, because that is where the opportunities are.
“Let me add, if there were more teams in Cape Town, I doubt that the league winner would come from Gauteng as often as it does at the moment.”
At the time when Chippa were contemplating relocation, there was much discussion about the lack of support from the Cape metro and the city’s many corporates.
Safa-CT president Norman Arendse, though, says football clubs need to do a lot more to establish themselves as brands that people want to follow.
“The city already provides football venues for clubs to play,” said Arendse.
“It costs money to maintain, as well as the safety and security measures, metro and traffic police during games, and so on. And if the clubs are not happy with the support they are getting, they have to approach the Mayor’s Office with these issues.
“But football clubs have to do a lot more in terms of marketing and |promotion. It’s all about brand |awareness… look at the Stormers, they are not doing too well this season, but there are still 20 000 people at the stadium.”
Arendse added: “We welcome Chippa’s decision to stay, we would have been disappointed if they had decided to relocate. They are a Cape-based club, with their fan base in Philippi... and they now have the opportunity to expand their base to other communities in Cape Town.”
Mpengesi’s immediate plan for his club is to ensure that they don’t drop to the lower tier again, as they did the last time they got to the PSL. “We are now focusing on our preparations for next season,” he said. “Our objective is to be competitive and to be a force to be reckoned with in the PSL.
“We are also focused on re-building Philippi Stadium and intend to make it our fortress this coming season and, hopefully, for many years to come. We would like to see the stadium |hosting no less than 20 000 fans in the near future.”
Additional reporting by Kieran Legg