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'Billionare' clubs feel pinch as pendulum swings in topsy-turvy PSL

08 September 2015, 13:52 Sy Lerman

Are the PSL's five "billionaire" clubs making the most of their wealth? Not if you take into account the early results in the current Premier League in what top official Professor Ronnie Schloss calls "the silly season."

"It's nothing like last season when Kaizer Chiefs placed a stranglehold on the League title from virtually the outset," says Schloss, "and Mamelodi Sundowns, Orlando Pirates, Bidvest Wits and SuperSport United appeared their most tangible challengers.

"This time around it's been a topsy-turvy succession of results," he added, "with Black Aces topping the log and more fancied clubs not dominating to any great degree."

It not a given that money will always buy success in soccer - and sometimes  it is squandered and misdirected in a big way and turns out a millstone round the club's necks.

Chiefs, Sundowns, Pirates, SuperSport and more recently Wits are, in the present financial climate, always going to have a head-start over the other clubs in the race for Premier League honours.

In the 18 seasons since the National Soccer League (NSL) hierarchy decided to revolutionise its operations, bringing in at the helm seasoned English administrator Trevor Phillips and change the name of the organisation to the Professional Soccer League, Sundowns, Pirates, Chiefs and SuperSport have been the champions an overwhelming 17 times.

Only Manning Rangers in the inaugural year of the PSL during the 1996/7 season and again in the 2001/02 season when Santos unexpectedly upstaged the big money moguls, have Sundowns, Chiefs, Pirates and SuperSport not finished at the top of the PSL heap.

And this is how the PSL championship roster currently stands: Sundowns (six titles); Pirates (four); Chiefs (four); SuperSport (three), Manning Rangers (one) and Santos (one) - with the monopoly of the top dogs not broken over the last 12 years.

Wits, without a league championship to boast about, now fit in as of the most affluent and therefore potentially one of the most viable candidates for Premier League glory in the future after being taken over by the giant Bidvest conglomerate with interests in 300 companies, revenue in excess of R143 billion in the past year and 14 000 employees worldwide.

Sundowns are considered to be the most affluent soccer club in the country, while raising salaries to unprecedented levels and earning the label of the PSL's almost obsessive spenders - although not always with benefits to show for their at-times extravagances.

SuperSport may choose to minimise the wealth that keeps them comfortably afloat and is always at their disposal when needed, but they are, of course, a vassal of the multi-billion Rand Naspers media giant that grew from the insular Afrikaner Nasionale Pers and now includes Multichoice, MTN TV and News24 in a vast, varied and ever-increasing empire.

Koos Bekker, who was at the helm in initiating much of the mushrooming growth, is reputed to be worth more than R10 billion in his own right, with the company generating more than R62.7 billion in revenue last year.

Chiefs supremo Kaizer Motaung might personally not be in the Motsepe, Joffe, Bekker bracket, but he is reputed to be a Rands billionaire and owns the most lucrative soccer asset in the country.

What is more, such is the vast following of both Chiefs and Pirates, that  massive sponsorships like those from Vodacom and SAB are n problem for the Soweto glamour clubs - not to mention the revenue that accumulates from gate money and business partnerships.

The restless force behind Pirates and indeed the PSL is Irvin Khoza, who has been modestly credited to have a personal fortune of R100 million. But the man known as "The Iron Duke" has a steel-like grip on organisations with a value far in excess of this amount.

"Even when you assemble a team with the potential to win the PSL championship," said the chairperson of one of the less affluent clubs, "the problem then is to hold onto the players.

"You offer players attractive contracts, but they  come back with the response 'sorry, we've been promised three times as much elsewhere."

And  invariably it's one of the "big five" who have made the offer!

But now, against all the odds, the pendulum seems to be swinging in an opposite direction.

Have the big spenders become complacent? Has their spending in securing players been a little off-key and are the billionaire clubs running their affairs with a professionalism in keeping with their bank balances?

Only time will tell and provide the answers as to who will rule the roost come the end of the 2015/16 season in which a levelling up process has thus far been evident.

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- News24

Tags psl soccer

WRAP: English Premiership

21 October 2016, 19:13

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