CAPE TOWN - Ajax Cape Town, hamstrung by time constraints and legal shenanigans, were forced to wave the white flag in their fight with the PSL with regards to the Tendai Ndoro eligibility controversy. While the 2018-19 PSL season will kick off as scheduled this weekend, there is no doubt the image of football in South Africa has been severely harmed by the case.
It’s not so much who was right or who was wrong, or whether Ndoro was eligible or not, the main issue to take from what has transpired over the last six months is that nobody was prepared to accept responsibility for the mess. And the PSL, the organisation that administers professional football in SA, was prepared to go to great lengths to protect its blatant conflict of interest in the case.
For us, Joe Public, who just want to watch football, what are we to make of all of this? Let’s unpack: the Dispute Resolution Chamber said Ndoro can play; the arbitrator William Mokhari said Ndoro can’t play; and the High Court said Mokhari was wrong, he does not have jurisdiction over the case, and it should be heard by Fifa’s Player Status Committee.
In a nutshell, that’s how perplexing this whole case is. The man in the street - you and me - wants the PSL to give us guidance. But what did we get? Nothing but the personal agendas of club bosses on the PSL’s executive committee protecting their own turf - and the gall of it all was that they were prepared to sacrifice the image of football to shield their own interests. Think about it: six months and a simple registration issue is still not solved. Really? Why?
All in all, though, there is some good to come from Ajax’s protracted battle - and we will see the fruits in how things are done from here on in. For example, the next time there is an eligibility issue and a club is docked points, will the points be given to the opposing team? It was done to Ajax - for the first time in the history of the PSL.
Thank you to the #UrbanWarriors faithful.— Ajax Cape Town (@ajaxcapetown) July 27, 2018
It has been difficult for everyone that loves this great club over the past few months, but you - the supporters - have remained by our side throughout. #WeAreAjaxCT 🔴❤️ pic.twitter.com/B4GuCYkisC
There is now a precedent; let’s see if the precedent is adhered to. Also, as seen in Ajax's case, an arbitrator’s finding is now not final and binding: the next time there is an arbitration hearing and a club is not happy with the ruling, it has the option of taking it to court in a bid to have the verdict set aside. While the smug PSL may be smiling like a Cheshire cat after managing to shut every door in Ajax’s face, the long-term view is that their problems are only starting. Court issues will, from now on, be a regular occurrence when a club feels it has been hard done by.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, unless the PSL is run by an independent body, football in SA will continue on a road to nowhere. An organisation which polices itself, like the PSL, where club owners make decisions in which they have a personal stake in the outcome, is doomed to controversy.
Let me expand: football is run by the Board of Governors (BOG) (the owners/chief executives of the 16 PSL and 16 NFD clubs), and it, in turn, is led by the PSL chairman (the boss of Orlando Pirates Irvin Khoza) and an executive committee (consisting of the representatives of Kaizer Chiefs, Golden Arrows, SuperSport United, Black Leopards, Wits, Mamelodi Sundowns and Bloemfontein Celtic); and the acting chief executive of the PSL is the owner of Arrows (Mato Madlala).
As we’ve seen with the Ajax issue over the last few months, there is no real debate in the BOG. The PSL’s executive committee makes a decision and that’s it: they simply bulldoze their view through and there’s nary a word from the floor. I’m sure there were clubs on the BOG who recognised there was something off in the manner in which the Ndoro saga was handled; they smelt the stench of it all yet kept quiet and allowed the flagrant conflict of interest to take place. My warning to these clubs is simple: The next time - and there will be a next time - it could happen to you. The next time you could be at the wrong end of a decision that benefits members of the PSL executive - and, rest assured, you will have no support: as with Ajax.
In metaphorical terms, the PSL, in the form of its executive committee, are a bunch of playground bullies. They’ve raked in all the cash, goodies and influence - and the puny kid who doesn’t want to get beat, who wants to be part of the in-crowd, he will have to play nice; he’ll have to brown nose and make sure he doesn’t rock the boat. Do so, and they’ll deal with you; they’ll show you their might. You can bring your brother, sister, parents, the teacher and principal, they don’t care: they’ll make you pay. Because the only thing that matters to them is protecting the cash, goodies and influence they’ve accumulated.