Johannesburg — The detection of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron, has sent the Premier Soccer League (PSL) into disarray. But it appears that both the league and its 32 clubs are at fault for not preparing for such turbulence and eventualities in future.
Last Friday, Kaizer Chiefs appealed to the league, asking that their matches this month be postponed amid the outbreak of Covid-19 at their base as ‘no less than 31 people’ tested positive for the novel virus after their usual testing routine.
But the league has been quiet on the matter, forcing Amakhosi to forfeit their two matches against Cape Town City and Golden Arrows respectively. However, these developments have drawn different reactions from the clubs and supporters.
With Amakhosi having initially agreed that the season goes on albeit with a possible spike in Covid-19 cases, some reckon that the PSL made the right decision by not officially calling off their matches, especially after the room to use youngsters.
John Comitis, the PSL’s executive committee member and the Citizens’ head honcho, admitted on Friday that “the league responded to the request of Chiefs in writing, saying that under the circumstances they cannot postpone the game.”
He added: “I think it's quite straightforward. The game hasn't been postponed officially by the league, and we will be at the game. It was discussed at the exco meeting. And the circumstances were debated but unfortunately, those are confidential.”
But since Chiefs’ daring appeal, there’s been a number of clubs, such as SuperSport United and AmaZulu, who’ve admitted that they’ve also been battling with a host of Covid-19 cases in their camps heading to match-day 14 and 15.
But the two clubs have had to soldier on, tapping into the youngsters in order for them to form a squad for games as they honoured their matches. But Usuthu’s coach Benni McCarthy is one of the few people who've sympathised with Chiefs.
“Kaizer Chiefs have been unfortunate that the pandemic spread throughout the whole team. Rightfully so, they can’t be expected to put out their MDC team or a team with an insufficient number of players,” McCarthy said this week.
“I hope the right thing is done and that they don’t get punished for something that’s happening throughout the world. We have to show compassion because at the end of the day the players' safety is far more important than a football match.”
Chiefs and some of "the big clubs" in the league could come across they are the only ones who are suffering the most. But that’s perhaps because they are noble and well resourced institutions, as they try to test at least one or twice in a month.
Meanwhile, Independent Media has learnt that not all the 32 clubs in the PSL test routinely after every two weeks. Instead, some are content with the usual temperature readings and isolation after witnessing any Covid-19 related symptoms.
From the NSL Covid-19 health protocol manual for the 2020/2021 season, point 23 on the ‘resumption of the season' says “member clubs must ensure that all players and support staff are tested for Covid-19 before resuming sporting activities”.
But that doesn’t say whether the tests are taken only before the start or for the duration of the season. Instead it says clubs “must also provide the league with the confirmation as provided for in this Covid-19 health protocol for the 2020/2021 season”.
The PSL stated in their protocol manual that the league’s Chief Compliance Officer should work hand in hand with the clubs'. But that doesn’t appear to be the case as Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker confirmed that they don’t test as often.
"We test regularly, but we haven't recently tested. If the cases do continue to rise and spill over into the Western Cape then it will leave us with no option. We do follow all other protocols. If players show symptoms, they do isolate,” he said
Some members of the fraternity have suggested that the PSL should consider a biological safe environment for the rest of the season just like they did with the 2019/2020 term. But that could be a huge ask as clubs will have to pay for themselves.
The PSL will have to act swiftly to resolve the matter, although that won't be easy especially after the resignation of their Prosecutor, Legal Head and CFO, while they have to deal with the fact that City's players played without cards on Tuesday.