A Bitter Taste In The Mouth
The 2018/19 Absa Premiership season starts on Saturday, 04 August 2018, with six fixtures confirmed for the opening day, while two others will be played on Sunday, as confirmed by the League on Monday afternoon. ‘Not if we have anything to do with it,’ was Ajax Cape Town’s threat to the scheduled league resumption, a week earlier.
While the league’s assurance was a bit of a huge sigh of relief, one can’t and shouldn’t underestimate Ajax’s threat. In a press briefing at the club’s headquarters last week, club CEO Ari Efstathiou outlined the team’s three-pronged approach in what is sure to be the last resort for the Urban Warriors to “seek justice”.
The process started yesterday, Tuesday 24th when Ajax approached South Gauteng High Court to have their case heard. Ajax are also planning to oppose the League’s application for leave to appeal Judge Denise Fischer’s overruling of an arbitration decision in the case of the eligibility of Tendai Ndoro, which led to Ajax’s relegation at the end of last season. The league, through the chairman, Dr Irvin Khoza, has made their intentions of appealing Fischer’s ruling clear but Ajax will, in return, launch their own application that should Fischer give the league the right to appeal her verdict, the original verdict will have to still stand until the appeal process has been completed. This could take months considering the democratic and transparent judiciary process, which we appreciate, in our country.
Long story short, Judge Fischer ruled that Advocate William Mokhari’s arbitration award be set aside as the right platform to hear the Ndoro saga was FIFA’s Player Status Committee. FIFA returned the case to SAFA and PSL to solve the matter as it was under their jurisdiction, with bodies within these two structures designed for dealing with disciplinary issues.
Such has been the cat-and-mouse chase between Ajax and the league over the relegation of the Cape Town-based club, that the end to this prolonged case seems far from over. While both parties believe they have a strong case, one can’t overrule the possibility of a delayed league start. As all eyes are on the League and Ajax’s battle, the eventual outcome of this case has far more reaching consequences than meets the eye. Ajax, for example, are fighting for their 15th place finish on the log, which was lost due to a number of points deducted and given to opposition after Advocate Mokhari’s ruling.
The far-reaching implications for this are that, should the Urban Warriors lose, they will launch an interdict to have the start of the new season put on hold while the Ndorogate is still before the courts. If they win, their victory could render the recently completed promotion/relegation play-offs null and void. Who won the play-offs? Black Leopards. Where are they now? Promoted to the elite league. Will they accept the ruling without a fight? Absolutely not! They will be within their rights to fight tooth and nail to hold on to their PSL status, especially after securing their promotion following so many failed attempts. They’ve also engaged in contracts with the government in order to upgrade their infrastructure to meet the PSL standards. Anything threatening their PSL status will be met with a lot of fight. You also have teams like SuperSport United, for instance, who through Ajax’s relegation, were secured an unlikely Top Eight finish and wouldn’t give up their precious spot without a fight.
It is an open secret that teams like Jomo Cosmos, for instance, who lost out in the play-offs, will have been keeping a close eye on the proceedings, depending on what the eventual outcomes of the case will be. This case is bigger than the League and Ajax because there are a lot of interested parties to it. That is why Platinum Stars were able to report on the same day Ajax were automatically relegated, replacing them in the opening fixture of the play-offs against Lidoda Duvha. Under normal circumstances, it would have been a logistical nightmare for Stars to summon their players, during off-season, a day before the game and still have to travel. Ajax had not even returned to the Mother City when Dikwena arrived in Venda to take their place in the play-offs.
What is the solution to this quagmire? One hopes a settlement will be reached soon so that our attention shifts from the courtrooms to the playing fields, where it rightfully belongs.
What started out as an ordinary football case has drawn so much attention and caused an unprecedented consternation to the league and everyone involved. If the ongoing process is anything to go by, this Ndorogate will not end well as it has already left a bitter taste in the mouths of not only those involved but everyone associated with the beautiful game.
We are only just over a week away from the scheduled much-anticipated start of the season and the controversy surrounding Ajax’s relegation isn’t doing the league any favours. While we have to respect and appreciate the league processes and everyone’s right to be heard, including the time afforded to the respective legal teams, one can’t help but feel this case should have been expedited. This saga should have been given top priority for the special case that it is. The continued dragging of this case is more than just damaging to the brand of the league and South African football at large. We hope football authorities will go out of their way to solve this dilemma so that we don’t have to wait any longer before the start of the season. With just over a week to go, we can’t wait any further for the start of the new season.
Here’s also to hoping that the strained relationships will be mended as the Ajax boss indicated, “Ajax have stated time and again that we are willing to sit around the table and discuss a solution with all the interested parties, but this has been rebuffed. We are now left with no other option but to proceed with the action we are taking. I have told the Board of Governors that this is not a personal issue, it is a business decision, and that in our shoes any of them would have done the same.”
Need I say more?