Khama gets R1m payout but there are many beggars on S A’s PSL beach of gold

Robson Sharuko

Harare – It’s been dubbed the El Dorado of African football – a top-flight league backed by some of the richest companies on the continent, whose appeal has transcended beyond the continent into South America and New Zealand – and whose top-earning stars live the lives of the rich and famous.   

The South African Premiership is loaded with players from across Africa, hoping for a chance to also benefit its rich pickings, while its tentacles have drawn some footballers from as far afield as El Salvador and Down Under in New Zealand.

Of course, the statistics about the real money which the superstars of the South African Premiership get are not readily available but reports have suggested that the highest paid players now earn as much as R480,000 a month in gross salary.

Zimbabwe international footballer Khama Billiiat’s recent case, in which he was paid a cool R1 million in a signing-on fee by African champions Mamelodi Sundowns, appears to lift the lid on the huge amounts which the players are getting in the South African Premiership.

The 27-year-old Zimbabwean is in the final year of his contract with the Pretoria giants and reports suggest negotiations for an extension of his contract have not been going smoothly with Billiat’s handlers angling for the player to move elsewhere.

The South African Football Players Union revealed they helped Billiat get his R1 million payment after Sundowns had been dragging their feet in honouring their payment amid reports from insiders in their camp that they had been holding on to that amount hoping Billiat would move to another club.

However, amid all these vast fortunes lie an island of hardships with the SAFPU lifting the lid on a world in which all the glitters, in the South African Premiership, aren’t necessarily gold.

And there are hundreds, if not thousands, of players who are beggars while living on a beach of gold in the South African Premiership.

The SARPFU describes itself as the “only voice that represents the needs and interest of professional football players in South Africa,’’ and says that ‘’despite the many stumbling blocks placed along our path at the helm being the restructuring of capital to wage an offensive against the working class (players) we have remained focused on our mission to represent the players so that they get fair treatment, respect and remuneration concomitant to their efforts.’’

The organisation claims the bigger cake is being enjoyed by those who own the clubs in the South African Premiership rather than the players who are the stars of the show.

A survey, which they had been conducting in the past two years, shows that there is a constituency of players in the South African Premiership who are getting a raw deal which is a mockery to the vast sums of money which the sponsors pour into the league.

The SARPFU says the season-opening Carling Back Label Cup, a match which features Soweto rivals Orlando Pirates and usually attracts a sell-out crowd at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, is a classic case of the exploitation of players by the owners of the teams.

‘’The main sponsors of the current tournament are more than happy and would not concern themselves with proceeds of the day, because they are guaranteed an increase in alcohol sales,’’ SAFPU said on their official website.

“Clubs wouldn’t really care much because they are guaranteed financial relief, it is alleged that clubs are getting millions of rands for participating in this Cup game. It’s important to note that the same cannot be said about players.

“Supporters have an opportunity to get their 90 minutes of fame, by rubbing shoulders with their favourite players. It is important to note that in recent months we have been busy addressing issues relating to player salaries.

“The events of the past days regarding player remuneration i.e. the matter between Bvuma and Kaizer Chiefs FC as testimony to the fact that players are at the end of the food chain when it comes to financial benefits.

“The sad story is that there will be no games without players. Supporters wouldn’t have a chance to vote for players but most importantly the question we must ask is what benefit would players get from this Cup game?

“We know for a fact that players are not going to get anything from this because clubs are making money under a pretext that this is just a pre-season friendly game to such an extent that even players are made to believe so.’’

SAFPU say they are concerned that the leaders of the South African Premiership continue to enrich themselves, getting huge chunks from the sponsorship deals, while the majority of the players are not getting what they deserve with some of them even being paid peanuts.

“The PSL Executive Committee and the entire Board of Governors have once more demonstrated to the nation that they are in this league for personal enrichment,’’ the organisation said.

“Surely, the pay-out could have gone a long way in helping to establish a comprehensive medical aid for players, pension fund, improve the grant for NFD clubs, and increase the number of clubs in the PSL and NFD from 16 to 20 clubs, bursary fund.

“It must also be noted that for the past 3 years, the PSL has withheld the meagre grant of R1 million annually meant for the players via SAFPU for reasons only best known to themselves, yet they pay themselves millions in commissions.

“This practice by the league demonstrate an unjust, non-caring irresponsible corporate citizen. Just like black people who did not matter to the apartheid regime, the players do not matter as far at the PSL and its constituent members (who are the teams) are concerned. We will continue to fight against this injustice as we do not owe our existence to any team owners but players.’’

Shockingly, claims the SAFPU, there are some players who are being paid as little as R5 000 a month in the richest league in Africa and one of the richest in the world.

“Exploitation of players by the PSL and National First Division team owners – it is common knowledge that there are players in the PSL and National First Division who still earn as little as R5000,’’ the organisation noted.

“The case of Roggert Nyundu vs Polokwane City, we all know how much this player was paid – a measly R5,000. We are aware of many cases where players are enslaved through unfair contracts by teams against their will.

“(More) often than not, teams make it difficult for players to take their labour elsewhere where their skills are needed. The case of Lehlohonolo Majoro against Kaiser Chiefs, Siyanda Xulu against Rostov, Sylla Mbemba against Warriors just to mention a few come to mind.

“Many players continue to find themselves in the same situation as these players, but because the teams ill-treat these players, most of these players suffer in silence because they do not want to lose their jobs. In our view, the teams are practicing modern day slavery and this must come to an end.

“Through our global union of professionals’ footballers, FIFPro, we are taking FIFA to court to fight this unjust practices that make the transfer system skewed to the teams. The success of this case will compel SAFA to enforce the changes via the PSL and NFD. Insurance pay-outs to players for death and injury.’’

September 2017
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