JOHANNESBURG – Max Tshabalala had already agreed a R1.5 million deal with the Sol Plaatje Municipality to have them host some of Bloemfontein Celtic’s home matches long before his shock announcement that he was putting the club up for sale.
This is the latest development as chief executive officer, Khumbulani Konco, also admitted that dealing with the aftermath of owner Tshabalala’s statement had become a “headache”, with the fans demanding answers.
Bloemfontein streets went up in smoke on Sunday when angry Phunya Sele Sele fans went on the rampage in the Free State capital, burning tyres and stoning cars to voice their dissatisfaction on the proposed sale of their beloved club.
And it is believed Tshabalala could sell to a businessman in the Northern Cape, opening up the possibility to relocate.
Insiders say Tshabalala, an entrepreneur with several business ventures including propety develompment, brokered a deal with the municipality in Kimberley weeks before going public with his intentions to put Celtic up for sale.
Coach Veselin Jelusic is also believed to be on his way out, with sources saying he has not been paid for three months due to the owner struggling financially.
But Konco was more diplomatic in his responses to questions about what is actually going on at Phunya Sele Sele, who finished in 11th place in the season that has just ended.
They reached the final of the Telkom Knockout, but lost 1-0 to Bidvest Wits in December last year in what has been a rather average first season for their Serbian coach.
“Those are still rumours. Since the chairman Max Tshabalala made the statement that he is selling the club, as a club CEO, that comes with the headache of managing that statement,” Konco said.
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“People want answers. People want to know what’s the latest? But unfortunately as we speak, the club still belongs to Max Tshabalala.
“Yes, there are people who are interested. But unfortunately for now, the people who are interested come from outside the province.
“I can’t say at this stage whether those people are bidding to buy and keep the club in the province or they are bidding to buy the club and take it out of the province.
“I can’t say that until the new owners, if I can use that term, come out and clarify to the public what their intentions are with the club. But yes, the club is for sale.”
Players and the technical team are supposed to be enjoying their pre-season break before heading back late next month to prepare for the 2018-19 campaign, but there is an incredible amount of uncertainty.
Some of the players were not paid their signing-on fees during the season – and it showed in their performances on the pitch, especially shortly after the halfway mark of what looked like a promising term.
And this only adds pressure on an already strained relationship between Tshabalala and the club fans.
His tenure as the Celtic boss has been filled with drama since he bought the club in 2014.
Two years after that transaction, Celtic fans clashed with Orlando Pirates supporters at Orlando Stadium as part of ongoing protests against Tshabalala.
An emotional Tshabalala threatened then to put the club up for sale because “our supporters are deliberately bringing the league into disrepute just to hurt me as an individual”, adding that some of the fans had told him to his face how much they hated him and wanted him gone with immediate effect.
He back-tracked on selling, but it appears a deal could be agreed on sooner rather than later this time around.
Bloemfontein Celtic F.C is delighted to announce that it has agreed a 3 year deal with @Umbro_SA for the start of the 2018/19 season as the Club's main kit supplier. #SiweleleSaMasele #LoveSiwelele pic.twitter.com/F5Pj5BCYQA
“There is no time frame (on finalising the deal),” Konco said. “People were confused when we announced the new sponsorship with Umbro (a week ago).
"They said Celtic are selling the club, but are also announcing a sponsorship. It’s business as usual.
“There will be a sleeve sponsor that we will be announcing in the coming month. As we speak, we are also looking at getting a title sponsor, the main sponsor.
“There will be announcements that will be made in due course, while the process of selling the club is still happening.
“It will happen in parallel. Remember that if things don’t go to plan, the club will continue and will still belong to Max Tshabalala.”