PSL commission payments in spotlight

It has been described by one newspaper as “splitting the Premier Soccer League [PSL] down the middle.” But what Finance Minister Trevor Manuel described as “morally reprehensible and corrupt” commission payments amounting to hundreds of millions of rands to PSL officials has seemingly united 45-million South Africans in outraged opposition to the professional soccer organisation.

And, in the wake of what has taken on the guise of a major, nationwide scandal, chief operations officer Ronnie Schloss on Monday confirmed the PSL had called an emergency meeting of its executive for Tuesday to discuss the issue.

At the root of the ugly controversy is a PSL resolution decreeing a 10% commission payment for all monies secured for the PSL—with the league’s sponsorship committee of chairperson Irvin Khoza, former CEO Trevor Phillips, Kaizer Chiefs chairperson Kaizer Motaung, Golden Arrows director Mato Madlala and consultant Peter Mancer due to share more than R200-million between them following the R1,6-billion TV deal with SuperSport and the recently-announced R500-million sponsorship for the premier league from Absa Bank.

“My understanding,” said Manuel in a scathing attack, “is that individuals are elected on to the league’s various committees to serve the interests of the sport, not in the expectation of acquiring personal fortunes to the detriment of the organisation they are representing.”

And what has moved many to describe the planned R200-million payout as “obscene and worse” is the simultaneous disclosure that some PSL clubs are paying players as little as R1 000 a month in wages, which South African Professional Soccer Players’ Union national organiser Catty Matutoane described as “reminiscent of the slave trade”.

“It is indeed shocking and disturbing that so much money is going into the hands of officials who are supposed to be there for the betterment of soccer,” added Matutoane, “when many players are still receiving peanuts and have no access to such basic rights as an officially sanctioned pension fund and a minimum wage.”

Several top PSL officials, among them Jomo Cosmos owner Jomo Sono and Ajax Cape Town managing director John Comitis, have come out openly in opposing the commission payments, with Sono declaring “sponsors are queuing up to commit themselves to soccer in view of the 2010 World Cup—there is no need to pay grotesque commissions to secure sponsors.”

Khoza, on the other hand, was quoted in the Sunday Times as declaring: “It is a curse to be black, so it is difficult to comment against your leadership—the African National Congress government—especially coming from a party that has liberated you.”

The PSL and Orlando Pirates chairperson apparently made the outburst when asked to comment on Manuel’s attack—indicating his hands were tied in making a forcible reply to the minister’s allegations.

Manuel, however, may have got his facts somewhat askew in one respect. Absa have not agreed to pay any commissions to the PSL officials concerned—and the matter is purely an internal arrangement within the league.

And while no commissions have yet been paid out relating to the SuperSport and Absa deals, it was revealed on Monday that members of the PSL’s sponsorship committee had already received substantial amounts for previous deals with Telkom and Vodacom—with Sono suggesting that a commission similar to that of the Pickard Commission nine years ago should be set up to investigate financial irregularities in soccer.—Sapa

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