Even if high-flying Mamelodi Sundowns successfully defend their league title this season, they are at risk of forfeiting it immediately. The Premier Soccer League (PSL) is expected to announce sanctions against the club at the end of the season — less than four games away.
Sundowns were found guilty by the PSL of having fielded an ineligible player during their game against Bidvest Wits on October 8, a game that ended in a 1-1 draw. Sundowns allowed defender Wayne Arendse to play as a late substitute even though he was not included in the team list, contravening Rule 16.3.2 of the National Soccer League handbook.
But tardiness in issuing the verdict, coupled with a possible further delay in sentencing, could deter Downs’ mission of defending the league title.
Sundowns are second on the PSL log table with 50 points, three behind log leaders Pirates. Pirates’ boss Irvin Khoza doubles as PSL chairman. (We’re not implying anything, just pointing out facts.)
This means that if the sanction, typically a points deduction, is issued at the end of the season, it will be too late for the Brazilians to make up the points, and the team in second place will automatically lift the trophy.
Downs coach Pitso Mosimane is hopeful the sanction will be meted out before the end of the season.
“I don’t know whether they are going to take a point because we drew [against Wits] or give Wits three points in a match they didn’t win. A verdict will probably arrive two matches before the league finishes, so it’s a reality,” said Mosimane.
Club spokesperson Thulani Thuswa did not respond when asked whether Sundowns would appeal the decision should the sanction visibly deprive the team of a league title.
PSL prosecutor Nande Becker argued Sundowns were partly responsible for the delay. “It was a complicated matter in a sense that the argument raised by Sundowns was one that required some consideration,” said Becker.
Khoza insists delays are not always the league’s fault. “In some cases, clubs ask for postponements. The clubs get further legal minds and they want certain particulars. Every club has a right to be given an opportunity when they ask for postponement. All postponements are discussed and are agreed afterwards with the prosecutor,” he explained.
Khoza, whose club is also in the running for the crown, denied that the decision to delay the issuing of the finding, and the further adjournment in the sentencing, were influenced by bias.
“There’s a case in question about one club who are saying that the matter is now being heard at the end of the season because someone must get an advantage. [That’s] nonsense, man,” he said.
At the end of last season, Ajax Cape Town were in a similar predicament, in a case they eventually lost in the high court.
At the end of the season, they were found to have contravened Fifa rules by fielding Tendai Ndoro, who had played for three clubs in the season.
Fifa rules stipulate that a player cannot play for more than two clubs in a season, and Ndoro had played for Pirates, Saudi Arabian side Al Faisaly and Ajax.
Ajax fielded him against Platinum Stars, Polokwane City, SuperSport United, Cape Town City and Orlando Pirates. All results from those games were declared losses, with Ajax being docked nine points and, at 13th on the table, losing their PSL status.