CAPE TOWN – A turf war has broken out between two local football clubs, with allegations that one club is trying to strong-arm the other in a David-and-Goliath-like battle that is now heading to the high court.
FC Kapstadt chairperson and founding member Zaid Omar alleged that his club was being “bullied” by Cape Town City Football Club, and claimed the City of Cape Town was complicit in an attempt to get them “booted” from the Hartleyvale sports facility.
Kapstadt was established in 2004 and previously operated from the Green Point Common. The club has 300 members, who make up 12 teams, and is regarded as one of the biggest and most respected development football clubs in the city.
The amateur club moved to Hartleyvale in 2009 when the city began building the Cape Town Stadium and Urban Park in Green Point as part of the 2010 Soccer World Cup preparations.
“They came to me and asked us to move as they wanted to build on the land. We had been there for five years and we had a year-on-year lease agreement with the city,” Omar said.
According to Omar, he had spent close to R1 million on fixing the clubhouse and re-surfacing the pitches at the Green Point Common.
He claimed he was not compensated for any of the improvements when Kapstadt relocated to Hartleyvale at the city’s request in 2009 despite not having a signed lease for the facility.
According to Omar, he had several meetings with city officials since 2009 in an attempt to secure a lease, but this never happened.
“I told the city that we would move from Green Point Common, provided they gave us a lease for five years, renewable for another five years. They agreed, but no lease was ever given to me.
“I cannot tell you with how many officials I have dealt with over the years and told my story to. They (city officials) keep changing and so I have to start the process with every new official, again and again,” added Omar.
Omar said that while he had struggled to acquire a formal lease, Cape Town City’s proposal to lease a section of Hartleyvale has already been dealt with at a sub-council meeting on November 20.
Omar claimed he had spent R500 000 on upgrades to the Hartleyvale clubhouse and is now in danger of being “booted” out again.
Kapstadt uses two pitches at the Hartleyvale facility where the 12 teams play. A third pitch across the road at Malta Park, was “inconvenient” and they no longer used it.
Now the proposed plans by the City will leave Kapstadt with just a single pitch for the 12 teams to play on while Cape Town City will be allocated one pitch, currently in use by Kapstadt, and additional land on the border of the Hartleyvale complex.
Omar claimed the City of Cape Town advertised a proposal to lease a section of the Hartleyvale land to Cape Town City without consulting or notifying Kapstadt.
“The first time I heard of the proposed lease to CTCFC was when I saw it in the newspaper. I believe the city has a hidden agenda, has no respect for the rule of law and is contriving with Cape Town City FC.”
Cape Town City, owned by former football player and businessman John Comitis, is a PSL club, which was established last year and does not have a home ground.
Omar blames the PSL club and Comitis for being behind the moves to get Kapstadt out of Hartleyvale.
But Comitis told Weekend Argus that there was no lease in place for any club at the Hartleyvale facility and that his club submitted an application eight months ago.
“We followed proper procedures and we are in the process of concluding a lease for Hartleyvale. FC’s issues with the lease must be sorted out with the City of Cape Town,” said Comitis.
Mayoral committee member for Safety and Security, JP Smith, said there was no intention to remove Kapstadt from the Hartleyvale/Malta sports ground.
“The club will continue to occupy a clubhouse and will continue to book fields on an ad hoc basis as is being done currently. The same rules apply to them as apply to community sports organisations across the city,” said Smith.
Mayco member for Assets and Facilities Management, Stuart Diamond, said the city received an application from Cape Town City to lease Hartleyvale Pitch A.
“This was duly advertised and FC Kapstadt lodged an objection and were afforded the opportunity to address the sub-council when the matter was considered,” said Diamond.
Smith and Diamond denied allegations that Cape Town City was receiving preferential treatment.
“The ‘pay and play’ booking procedure governs how sports fields are utilised. Most clubs book fields on this system according to their needs; others have leases where the clubs are fully responsible for the clubs houses and fields at their own cost,” added Smith.
“Due process was followed,” said Diamond.
Smith added that the City’s Recreation and Parks Department conducted a review of the use of the Hartleyvale/Malta Park sports ground and found the facilities were under-utilised and that both Kapstadt and Cape Town City could be accommodated.
Hellenic Football Club owner Mark Byrne told Weekend Argus that he agreed Omar was being “bullied”.
“The small guys are getting a raw deal. Omar was given the land and he has maintained it,” said Byrne.
He also questioned why the city was not making other venues like Cape Town Stadium, Vygieskraal or Athlone Stadium available to Cape Town City, if the club needed a home ground.
“Why punish a local club, it is not fair,” said Byrne.
He added that the South African Football Association (Safa) and the PSL did not look after the interests of amateur clubs.
“Players like (Cristiano) Ronaldo and our very own Benni McCarthy have come from development clubs. This is definitely a case of amateur clubs being bullied by the big guys,” said Byrne.
Safa Cape Town president Norman Arendse told Weekend Argus that Safa could only intervene once a complaint has been received from Kapstadt.
He called on Kapstadt, Cape Town City and the City of Cape Town to sit together to resolve the impasse.