Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The uncomfortable truth: Why Irvin Khoza can't run Orlando Pirates and the PSL

The Iron Duke: Irvin Khoza
AFTER two years back in South Africa, it's time to address one of the serious problems surrounding the PSL, indisputably the richest league on the continent. It’s time to ask salient questions about the all-powerful Irvin Khoza, despite my twitter timeline being haunted by the Ghost of Soweto. Time to lay my cards on the table without fear or favour.

This isn't the blog I intended to put up today. My thoughts are drawn to Gordon Igesund's first Bafana Bafana squad and the resignation of England Test cricket captain Andrew Strauss, both of which will be announced today.

But the demands from Orlando Pirates fans on Facebook and Twitter knows no limits. They want me to explain why I feel their beloved Iron Duke should step down from his position of PSL chairman as soon as possible, for the sake of the game.

I should point out I've never met the man. Back in the 1980s, when I was heavily involved in South African football, the Iron Duke was a shadow in the foothills of football, a minor extra without an illustrious career in the game like the powerful figures of the time, Kaizer Motaung and Jomo Sono.

Khoza's rise to prominence, his incredible journey to a controlling position at Orlando Pirates, is easy to explain. The 64-year-old is a political genius, a master of diplomacy, despite an arrest for tax fraud in 2001 and two fines for insurance fraud.

He now holds a majority interest in the Orlando Stadium, has vast power within SAFA, decides the direction of the national team and - after playing a leading role in a highly successful World Cup on South African soil - he was able to focus on his beloved Buccaneers and they promptly picked up two successive trebles.

I'm told Khoza also has a stake in the Ellis Park sporting precinct, I've seen his mansion in Soweto - and he even has President Jacob Zuma in his family tree, though I won't go in to that here.

The conflict of interest inherent in Khoza's position as the major power at Orlando Pirates, the PSL and SAFA shouldn't need to be explained, but here I will list my reasons why I believe all is not right given the current status quo.

ONE: When Orlando Pirates fans got out of hand on Saturday night at Khoza's Orlando Stadium, I was there. I pointed out the paucity of trained stewards, the lack of warnings from the public address system and the presence of fireworks and bottles among the unsearched Ghost which led to a brief stoppage of game and several injuries.

On Monday on eNCAnews, eTV Sunrise, KayaFM, here and in The New Age, I highlighted a list of measures which should now be taken to ensure there is no repeat of the violence which broke out during a shock 3-0 MT8 defeat at the hands of SuperSport United.

With Khoza's Pirates fined FOUR TIMES since March last year, I called for immediate and punitive action. A big fine, a game played behind closed doors and further punishment for the apologetic Benni McCarthy, whose needless red card ultimately led to Saturday night's trouble, which I witnessed from a position amid the furious Buccaneer fans.

What did Khoza's PSL do? They charged arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs AND Orlando Pirates with failing control their fans. Once more, we witnessed the shrewd political machinations of the Iron Duke. The AmaKhozi DID throw a few things at Lotus Versfeld on August 5 but that was nearly a month ago, and there had been no calls for further action from ANYBODY. It was not a major incident.

It's arguable Chiefs deserved some sort of censure for their away fans that day, but in football, the conduct of travelling supporters is difficult to monitor. It may be that Khoza had no part to play in this decision to charge BOTH of South Africa's giants on the same day.

But as long as the Iron Duke runs both the PSL and Pirates, it's hard to see yesterday's move as anything other than an attempt to deflect attention away from the problems at the Orlando Stadium on Saturday night, where Khoza is ultimately responsible for security and fan behaviour.

We shall find out if real action is taken against the Buccaneers on September 7, when the hearing in to both situations is held.

TWO: Though nobody is questioning Orlando Pirates' position as the premier team in South Africa after their two successive PSL championships, it was a bit of a surprise when FOR THE SECOND SEASON RUNNING, the Buccaneers were "drawn" to play Golden Arrows on the last day of last season.

Pirates duly won the PSL with that come-from-behind victory against Golden Arrows inspired by a Benni McCarthy brace. What are the odds on that happening, given the League fixtures are supposed to be drawn at random with the help of computer scheduling?

And, unless I've been misinformed, Khoza's relationship with Arrows chairperson Mato Madlala and her family goes back a long, long way, to the re-founding of the franchise in 1996. Again, this could be pure coincidence, but with the Pirates chairman in charge of the PSL, what are we to think?

THREE: With his side just hours away from opening the new season against, ironically, Golden Arrows, we had Squveve suddenly bursting on to our television screens to tell us all about the new-fangled “Q innovation” with sponsors ABSA.

Though I have no problem with the idea of giving the quarterly winners of the PSL R1.5m and the ultimate champions R10m, I said immediately that the added concept of providing R500,000 to journalists who correctly predicted the most results every quarter. That goes against journalistic ethics and, arguably, could even taint the attitude of certain media pundits.

To have the chairman change the rules of the PSL hours before his own team – aiming for a hat-trick of titles - kicked-off the season would be seen an unusual in any league in the world. To offer money to journalists rather than fans for their predictions? Unthinkable.

And the fact that only “certain” journalists have been approached for their predictions makes the whole thing curiouser still. Somehow media men critical of Khoza were left off the list – I can only speak for myself. PSL PRO Altaaf Kazi used to email me everything last season. Now I’m persona non grata, which is why I chose to sit in the stands at 
Orlando last week rather than the press box. 

Is that why neither of the major South African football websites mentioned the game-stopping trouble at the Orlando Stadium in their match reports on Saturday night? Of course, I could be wrong, but with Khoza in his dual position of power, it’s hard to put two and two together without making half a million.

FOUR: Whatever happened to PSL CEO Stanley Matthews? Why did he stand down when everything appeared to be going so well? I met Matthews a couple of times before his sudden departure in July, have tried to get him to talk to me about the problems which led to his resignation. I’ve heard nothing. Nobody has. It’s as if he never existed.

Could it be that he stood up to the machinations that were going on behind the scenes at the PSL? As a former SuperSport United executive, he would have railed against potential bias being shown toward any particular club. At the PSL awards at Gold Reef City I was particularly interested to see the relationship between Khoza and Matthews. And between the Pirates boss and Amakhosi founder Kaizer Motaung.

There was no doubt who was in charge, even at a largely social occasion. A couple of weeks later, Matthews was gone. So was Altaaf Kazi. We can only guess at the root causes of their unhappiness, but Khoza has done nothing to explain.

I will let this argument stand at that. Four good reasons why Irvin Khoza SHOULD NOT be allowed to run the PSL and the South African champions. I could go in to the failure of Danny Jordaan’s FIFA-backed bid for the SAFA presidency, the bizarre posse of unwanted Pirates who headed to promoted Chippa United shortly after their promotion or the PSL’s strange silence on the corruption charges against Bobby Motaung earlier this month.

But I won’t. I daren’t. Instead, chew over the four scenarios above. Understand that I have no bias here. It is in the interests of South African football to have an efficient administration, and we all know Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs are integral to the success of the PSL.

What I fear is this. If South African football is run as a monopoly, with the chairman having direct links to the president of the country, FIFA and/or CAF will act. Just as they threw Tunisia’s Etoile Sahel out of the African League after a missile-throwing crowd invasion last week, Pirates must put their ship in order.

Justice must be seen to be done. And, though Pirates fans won’t like it, the only way to do that is to appoint a neutral PSL chief and a new CEO. Not to mention a proper head of SAFA rather than a compromise candidate.

It won’t be painless. But in the long run, South African football will benefit.


  1. Smells of bias.

  2. Why Khoza should not be allowed....allowed by who Neal? After the overwhelming information you have shared about his enormous power i am left with the impression that the only person who can do any allowing here is Khoza himself

  3. 1-u sound bitter that u weren't approached 4 the Q innovation.y dnt u cum out n tell us wat criteria was used?
    2-u neva reported about the kc loftus incident yet your conceding it did happen.
    3-you sound biased in this blog.what has zuma's loose zips have anything 2 do with khoza?did khoza sent zuma or was he betrayed by a friend?
    4-you jst accused soccaladuma and kickoff of selective reporting all because their journalists were invited 4 the Q.
    4 this FOUR reasons you should've rather opted 4 the strauss article and gathered FACTS.b4 u tel us wat happened @ loftus...u must simply shush.n as 4 the psl saying sumthing abt bobby,wat were they supposed 2 say and do?his own club acted like they know nothing.shouldn't you query kaizer or are u still writing his blog?

  4. I never understood Khoza's relationship with SA's Football structure... I stand to be corrected but how does one become a Headmaster, Teacher and a Learner; which is what I see at SAFA, PSL and Pirates... And the issue of Altaaf? As a follower of both the PSL and NFD, I really do miss him.. PSL's bias reporting is not even a joke. Im glad NFD will be their own stand alone league perhaps some publications and journos will give them some credit.

  5. 1. If this Q-thing for journalists is not 'buying' them then I dont know what is. Interesting that not too many are coming out to question it
    2. It's doubtful that you would be interrogating issues so passionately if you were not sidelined yourself
    3. Journalists need to step up and put issues before self-interest on a number of topics, not just this. They should be the voice of the voiceless masses and not act selectively.
    4. Fair arguments all round, but if you have further points of discussion re. the Bobby affair and Chippa/Bucs players, it seems a bit unfair to throw them up for speculation without elaborating, dont you think?

  6. Honestly am getting fedup with irvin khoza and his dictating attitude. I said it en am still saying khoza is selfish, hungry en master of manupilation en control en as long as we still alive we are his puppets and that's so sickenin togethar with his buddies motaung and jomo.the issue of refferes, am scared of mentioning it, look how pirates won their first game against arrows and how they advanced to mtn against bloemfontein celtic jst to mention a few, could he be having a hand since their on his payroll? Jst asking?, honestly they need to back of and the let soccer be soccer a far game en stop thinking and believing their maffias of south african soccer.

  7. I have never trusted foreigners and I will always look at them with suspicion. Neal, u hate Khoza and I'm nOT surprised u have not met him as u claim... Your presence in Mzansi is suspicious and I would like to know why u chose to come here than stay in England. I can't recall or remember any Englishman who likes Black people especially the successful ones. Many, like u have tried in vain to paint Dr Irvin Khoza bad but he is still standing. I would like to know your real reasons for being here and writing the stuff u do, surely life is better there than here but u chose here.

  8. Neil did u apply for accreditation from PSL. Dr Khoza is not the only club chairman @ PSL. i don't remember seeing u at any psl game. Your reporting is always based on stories @ kickoff and laduma. I dont remember you attending any press conference in south africa. Please check your history PSL did have CEO who were not linked to teams and they failed to take our football to next level. It sound like u are having a personal problem with Dr Khoza. Please make time and meet the man to clarify your issues. Lastly all journalist who are accrediated by psl were invited to psl q-innovations through their emails. Why don't u ask my u were not invited than create story about Dr Khoza.

  9. i agree with neil! Pirates boss and Motaungs are killing the flair of our game for thier own benefit!!!! money is spread in their team not in the PSL!!!!YYYYYYYY

  10. jealousy and ungratefulness is the disease that need to be cured. look i don't like the idea of the Dr Khoza running everything thing (if he does). Dr Khoza and his crew have taken South African football to the next level. Mr Collins you talk only about the iron duke, have you ever had of a post called chairman of finance? if you have tell me who holds that position in the south African premier league league and if you have not go and research about it maybe you can right another article about it. i think that the iron duke is the best thing that has ever happened in south afrcan football administration.

  11. 1) Do you understand the difference between the PSL and Orlando Pirates FOOTBALL CLUB??
    2) If you say Irvin Khoza should step down can you give RELEVANT POINTS with regards to the PSL!! Are you even aware that Irvin Khoza and Kaizer Motaung MADE the PSL what it is today?? And he must STEP DOWN,because??
    3) Can you atleast be mature about your content? What does the President have to do with the Iron Duke stepping down? Can you even state the relationship between them? DO NOT make assumptions!!
    4) As a "JOURNALIST" is it ETHICAL to write articles based on EMOTION and PERSONAL ISSUES? Since you talking about ethics in journalism!!

    Ps: Next time have SALIENT points with regards to your topics! Because you were way off TOPIC!!

    1. Right in the nuts matey. Leave our beloved PSL to us for us to judge, its people like you that don't want to see African football prosper because your poor England is in no man's land at the moment.
      How the hell do you expect all the PSL club chairmen to appoint someone who knows nothing SA football?
      You are most definitely aware of Dr Khoza's achievements and you come pour your bitterness and hatred on your blog thinking you are allowed just because it's your job, nah matey, you are not doing your job BUT showing disrespect to your elder, young man, watch your mouth and get your facts right.

  12. U have poor a ardument..PSL cönsist of all Club owners if khoza's intelligency intimidates you ,go back to the Sea where you belong,dont come here to confuse SA ppl with your personal vandeta .if you take khoza out who will be neutral?..Do u know dat 98pecnt of SA People are soccer loving ppl ,then will the new chair be neutral ? In your dreamz brul