Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A tale of suspension: The scandal of South Africa's National First Division which leaves Jomo Sono sidelined

Super Sono: will we ever see this again?

THERE is a scandal lurking beneath the surface of South Africa football which needs to be urgently addressed. It has nothing to do with Bobby Motaung’s dealings in Mbombela or the way Orlando Pirates go for the ball.
This is a far more pressing problem involving a missing teenager: What exactly has happened to the 16-year-old National First Division?
Last week, as the Premier Soccer League celebrated the return of ABSA, introduced the Q innovation and offered journalists R500,000 to predict results, we were told the NFD was “suspended until further notice”.
That’s like the Championship in England being called off a week after it was due to start… an unthinkable act of footballing foolishness.
Acting PSL CEO Cambridge Mokanyane, a controversial caretaker following the shock departure of Stanley Matthews at the end of last season, says we must now wait for a Special General Meeting “towards the end of August 2012” that will decide on the future of the NFD.
But exactly why Mokanyane was involved is hard to fathom, given that the members agreed just a week earlier that the NFD should be a stand-alone league in an effort to make it more viable as an attractive brand.
What we do know is this: relegated Premier League sides Jomo Cosmos and Santos, along with failed play-off contenders Thanda Royal Zulu, are now operating in a vacuum. They have resumed pre-season training and are paying large squads of professional players – but they have no fixture list and no prospect of a game – or promotion - in sight.
Jomo Sono, the larger-than-life proprietor of relegated PSL club Cosmos, insists: “I know both leagues because we have played in both of them for quite some time. It’s high time the NFD realised its potential in terms of competing for support and raising the level of competition on the field."
While the new-fangled PSL offers R1.5m to the quarterly winners of their top tier, the NFD remains dramatically sponsor-free and racked by legal action brought over the presence of various unregistered players last season.
Blackburn Rovers had a drawn out issue and just last week it was announced that Carara Kicks have been relegated from the league which South African football relies upon to feed clubs in to the Premier.
Though there is no date set for the “special meeting”,  the PSL – sponsors of the NFD when Mvelaphanda pulled out in 2007 - insist they will "deliberate and expand on the NFD matter" but nobody is willing to talk and the First division teams have NOT YET been give their R250 000 monthly grant (the Premier clubs receive R1m) though the PSL's head of communications Connie Motshumi insists thi will happen soon.
When the NFD split from the PSL, Jabu Khumalo, boss of long-running NFD side African Warriors, said: "We are confident that the stand-alone National First Division will grow as a big sporting brand in South Africa and on the continent.
"We have many companies that we intend approaching to sponsor us, including television companies to broadcast our matches."
But Khumalo insists the word “split” is too strong. He said: “It’s too strong to say split. It doesn’t perfectly describe what this is all about.
“There is the main body which runs both the PSL and the NFD, the NSL. Should this go ahead it will remain like that only that the NFD will not fall under the PSL as it has  in the past but will be a standalone league.
“We will then start mobilising sponsors and re-brand the league to make it more attractive to not only future funders but fans too.
“This will have a positive impact on South African football in the long run. We will continue to be a development league for the PSL but now we will  be giving them stronger teams and stronger players who can compete, raising the bar.”
Khumalo says: “The problem is that we have been overshadowed by the PSL for far too long and initially it will be hard but we can make it work.”
And we can only hope he’s right. A Premier League without a feeder system and, possibly, without promotion and relegation, is unthinkable.
This article appeared in www.thenewage.co.za today... if you have any information of the impact of the NFD suspension, please email me on www.nealcollins.hotmail.com.

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