It is now history that Black Leopards have retained their Absa Premiership status with a 100% win record in the promotion/relegation play-offs. This is the same team that finished 15th on the log when the curtain was pulled on the dramatic league campaign that was brought to a screeching halt by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Leopards won all four mini-league fixtures against Ajax Cape Town and Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila FC, putting an end to any hopes of Ajax returning to topflight football after leading the log standings, just like Kaizer Chiefs, for the better part of the season until they let it slip right at the end. Ajax finished second to Swallows FC, who won the GladAfrica Championship on goal difference with 57 points, with TTM collecting 48 points and taking the third place, which qualified them for the Promotion/Relegation Play-offs.
Now, the very same TTM that was to battle it out for PSL promotion had already sold their GAC status to a Limpopo consortium for a reported R10m, a price that was reportedly reduced from R12m in an event the club would remain in the Limpopo province. As quoted in the media, club chairman Masala Mulaudzi has confirmed the transaction and that the status has been sold and the club will remain in the province. So, picture this… TTM are playing for promotion to the elite league when they have already bought the PSL status of Bidvest Wits and confirmed the club’s relocation, name change, player and technical team movements and almost everything to do with the 99-year-old club. They are already in the PSL, and would you blame anyone who accuse them of not trying enough in the play-offs, after losing all four games when they were only nine points away from the league title just a month or so ago? Conspiracy theory, you reckon?
A team that finished third in the GAC couldn’t even get one lousy draw in the play-offs, scored five goals in four games and conceded 13 in the process. I don’t even want to talk about what happened in their game against Ajax, where they conceded five goals in 18 minutes! Think about this, for a second. TTM winning the play-offs would have been a bonus for the new owners and a wasteful expenditure for the former owners. In essence, Mulaudzi would have, in principle, sold a PSL status for a lousy R10m if the team was to be promoted to the PSL, when he inherited contracts and big salaries from Wits that need to be honoured and settled, if necessary. Retrospectively, one would wonder why the rush to buy Wits’ status when there was an outside chance to win the league? Why not spend more money on TTM and ensure they go all out for promotion rather than buying a whole new team? You can’t blame anyone for asking that question now, can you?
For argument’s sake, say the R10m purchase of TTM’s GAC status didn’t come with a clause that said if the club was to win promotion, the price would increase. What would motivate the team to play to win the promotion? When you look at TTM’s social media activities, can you blame people for coming up with all sorts of conspiracy theories that have rendered the whole league’s promotion/relegation play-offs a mockery? Can you really blame people for accusing TTM for not doing enough to win the play-offs, when they would post congratulatory messages to the opposition? There’s Fair Play and sportsmanship, but there’s also childish and irresponsible behaviour. I’m not casting aspersions on anyone here, nor am I accusing the club, but the fact of the matter is that the promotional play-offs have always been such a controversial issue and I don’t blame those who have labelled this season’s instalment as the worst and a useless effort. As a football supporter, surely you’d feel cheated when such things happen because it throws the whole league into disrepute. The league has grown in leaps and bounds over the years, but the rate at which teams exchange hands and the controversy that follows some of these transactions leave a bitter taste in the mouth. It all makes a mockery of our league, to be honest.
For too long now, people have made their feelings known about the play-offs, with the two teams down and two teams up being the most popular choice. While the status quo remains, doubt in people’s mind is the last thing the league needs and all the teams have to be held to responsibility. The little doubts have a way of spreading out like wildfire and creating uncontrollable perceptions.
Should TTM have been disqualified from the play-offs by the virtue of the fact that they’d sold their status and even bought a PSL status already? I don’t know. I know the transaction was only to kick in at the end of the season, but maybe, just maybe, a delay in approving the deal would have gone a long way in avoiding a situation where one team was likely to have two teams, if you catch my drift, in the same league. Having said that, for the sake of professionalism and integrity, one hopes there was nothing untoward that happened in the play-offs and that all was above board. Without taking anything away from TTM and everyone involved with the club, it will be worth their while to look into their social media and communication strategies with an analytical eye to avoid being misconstrued. It is very easy to do and say things unwittingly, but there’s a reason why we shouldn’t rush to say or do things. If you are to make an impact in the elite league, which we all hope will be the case, then you have a long way to go. You have so much to deal with, following your successful acquisition of Wits and the selling of your own status, and time is not on your side in preparation for the new season.