'I don't know if there'll still be Pirates'

PSL Lockdown News

Orlando Pirates administrative manager Floyd Mbele has issued a strong reality check on the economic threat that lies ahead for many PSL clubs given the current COVID-19 situation.

It has been exactly a month since a ball was last kicked in the PSL, with as little as a proposed end to its indefinite suspension nowhere in sight as yet.

The country is currently under total lockdown issued by government, with the national economy taking strain with each passing day as fears of job-cutting begin to make the rounds.

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This could be a potential reality for some of our local footballers, and not only in the lower leagues but at the elite level too, according to Mbele, who has given detailed insight into the permutations.

"What if we come back [from the lockdown] and four or five players have contracted this [virus], and we lose them? What will happen? We don't know that, we can't be planning in isolation just because we need to be,” the former Platinum Stars MD tells KickOff.com.

"What if people contract this thing, because they live in these [affected] communities, they interact with these people, and tomorrow six players contract it and four later pass away, then what happens to our plans?

"We can't be thinking that way, we've got to sit down and say, 'Let nature take its course,' once everything is settled then I can be able to say, 'Okay, given the damage we've suffered, how do we move forward?'

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"At the moment, there are infinite amount of possibilities because you're not in charge of the process, so you can't plan. If it was a straight A or B, or C scenario, it was one thing. What if this lockdown is extended until end of May, then what?

"So, I think it's a bit short-sighted and maybe a bit naive to think anybody is going to sit and plan that this is how it's going to happen, and this is when it's going to happen.

"Even so, let's assume that's four weeks into June, then what happens thereafter? This is not someone waving a magic wand, saying, 'This will start then, that will start then', because we don't understand the impact this thing is having on society in general or sport in particular.

"So, why are we wanting to work as if it's business as usual – is the lockdown going to be up tomorrow and everything is going to be safe?

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"Will there even be Pirates after the lockdown? Because, what if the sponsors take the money? Will there be Pirates for me to plan on? Will SuperSport [MultiChoice] still want to come [and sponsor], because they may feel there's nothing for the league to show.

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"They would then take their money to keep their business afloat and pay their employees, so they could withdraw their sponsorship, because it's the marketing budget that goes first.

"So this conversation actually becomes a bit insensitive, because we are not thinking about what is happening to the players that we have now. Who's going to pay them beyond this when there's a lockdown? With money that comes from where?

"If Vodacom comes tomorrow and says 'we are going to reduce [the value of sponsorships] because we've got a backlog, we've suffered irreparable damage' how will that impact us? Why do you think clubs around the world are talking of salary cuts?

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"So let's look at what the trends are. What is happening worldwide? Everyone is on a lockdown, okay, so what is the one buzzword? Everyone is taking a pay-cut. Why do you think this is happening?

"Because there's no guarantee of revenue coming forward, so people are taking pay-cuts to keep the rest of the support staff, so that they are able to have jobs.

"I don't know if there'll still be Pirates, will there be? I think Pirates is an extreme example. Let's think about teams who don't have sponsors, where their model is based on the owners' money coming from their own pockets – those are business people.

"What happens if their businesses are gone [under] now? Okay, the PSL grant is one thing, but some have to put their own money in there. What could happen to businesses after the lockdown? Will there even be business? Without it, how will clubs survive beyond this?

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"So I think we are a bit misguided and a bit naive at times to think life is normal. Life is not normal, I don't even know if I'll have a job after the lockdown. There's nothing for certain, we're taking everything for granted.

"Institutions are the same, the only difference is that some have got sponsors, but those sponsors are companies and they're feeling the same effects like everyone else.

"If a company decides to pull out – I mean, I'll make an example, when Standard Bank decided to take money out of sport, it was because they had to decide between either keeping spending while their employees are getting retrenched, or cancel all the sponsorships and keep the employees and the company afloat, which is what they did.

"Now Standard Bank is still one of the leading banks not only in South Africa but internationally, and what happened? They are now able to take a bit of money to put it back and say, 'Okay, this is something we were doing before, let's go back [and do it again].'

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"They were doing Standard Bank Jazz Festival, [partnering with] Kaizer Chiefs and Pirates, and all these things, because they could. But when the economic crunch came in [2008-2010], they needed to realign what they needed to do.

"It's exactly the same thing now. If Vodacom comes tomorrow and says [to Chiefs and Pirates] 'no guys [we can't sponsor anymore]', what do we do? There's nothing we can do."