File picture: Ross Jansen

CAPE TOWN – The City of Cape Town and the South African Football Association (Safa) will work together to manage the various playing fields and ensure that they are used in a manner that mitigates further damage as a result of the drought, the city said on Sunday.

“Cape Town is currently experiencing a serious drought and there is absolutely no option of irrigating fields with potable water, even in exceptional circumstances,” the city said in a statement.

The city and Safa had met to discuss how to manage the upcoming soccer season during this time of drought crisis, where the majority of the city’s sports fields had not been irrigated for months. Both the city and Safa agreed that it was not possible for the soccer season to continue as per usual.

The city had over 500 sports fields and 50 percent of these were in a state of considerable distress.

“The situation calls for active management by both the city and Safa in order to preserve our sports fields,” mayoral committee member for assets and facilities management Stuart Diamond said.

“Although these are certainly trying times, Safa is positive that the good working relationship we enjoy with the city will ensure the best possible outcome for the coming soccer season. Without this partnership with the city we would not be able to adequately respond to the impact that the current drought is having on our playing fields,” Safa Cape Town project leader for facilities Bennett Bailey said.

“I want to thank Safa for their willingness to proactively tackle the impending crisis we are experiencing at our grass fields. A triage system has been developed in order to categorise field conditions by assigning a red, amber, or green status to each on a weekly basis. These categories have corresponding usage conditions where play on some fields will be suspended immediately and limited to two or three hours per week on others,” mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services JP Smith said.

The city’s recreation and parks department and Safa had formed a task team to continually monitor field conditions and usage for the coming soccer season and ensure certain provisions were taken to enable special events in the soccer calendar to take place. Safa would assist the city in mapping out where alternative water sources existed and where resources were to be prioritised to ensure that as far as possible the soccer season could continue.

As part of this effort, Diamond had reiterated the city’s commitment to improving the Athlone Stadium to provide a top-class facility for the local clubs, community, and broader soccer community.

The city was mindful of the effects of climate change and so with longer-term thinking in mind had already invested in 29 synthetic pitches. These pitches did not require water for irrigation and unlike a grass field, they could withstand unlimited hours of play, the statement said.