JOHANNESBURG – As Refilo Jane and Rhoda Mulaudzi prepare to leave the country to chart a new path for women’s footballers in Australia, the good news for the rest of the others is that they too will soon be playing in their own professional league.
The national women’s football league is going to be launched early next year, ushering in a new era for the game in South Africa.
“It’s happening,” Ria Ledwaba, the vice president of the South African Football Association (Safa), said excitedly.
“The league will kick off in April (2019). That is why we are going on roadshows of the provinces to prepare.”
According to Ledwaba, the plan is to have a 12 or 16 team league, though details of how the competition will be run is to be discussed at Safa national council level.
Speaking at a breakfast for women in sports organised by the country’s Sports and Recreation Minister Thokozile Xasa, Ledwaba explained how they have buy in from the provinces.
“We’ve already met a few provinces and getting feedback from the clubs’ owners with regards to how we plan to run the competition.
“And they are generally supportive of the idea of starting with a 12-team league. The plan is to start with 12 and have no relegation but instead promote two teams each year for two seasons so that we reach the 16-team stage.”
By so doing, Ledwaba explained, they will be affording the clubs an opportunity to gain their footing.
“We are giving the clubs a chance to gain stability and we believe that by the time we get to 16 clubs, they would have all found their way through the league and once we start with relegation everyone would have had an opportunity to build themselves into a solid side.”
Ledwaba said that they would also be engaging with the sports ministry for support.
“Some of our provinces like the Northern Cape do not have clubs, even though there are a lot of girls who are in our national teams who come from there. We will be engaging with the different regions and provinces as well as the ministry to assist teams from there.”
The 12-team plan will see the nine provincial champions from the Sasol League, as well as the University of Johannesburg plus Mamelodi Sundowns and Bloemfontein Celtic ladies' teams participating in the new league.
“Yes the structure is such that UJ are already guaranteed participation in the league. We are aware that some people might complain about the inclusion of Sundowns and Celtic, but this is our way to show gratitude to these PSL clubs for their contribution to women’s football. We are saying to the other PSL clubs, you too can adopt clubs in your provinces and take them under your wing.
“We’ve already discovered that having renowned names such as Sundowns and Celtic in the league helps open doors to sponsors out there who agree to doing business because we have institutions they readily recognise.”
Ledwaba and her team will conclude their provincial roadshows early next month and thereafter take feedback to the Safa council which will then decide on whether the league is a 12 or 16 team institution.
“The league is definitely kicking off in April,” Ledwaba beamed.