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Editor's Blog

There's Something Very Wrong With SA Soccer

There is something very wrong with South African soccer. Each season the ever-expanding desert of emptiness seems to creep further and further into our football stadiums. Where there once were thousands of fans, where there was once life and joy, there is now nothing – just pockets of fanatics in clumps here and there, scattered around the stadiums of the PSL, week in and week out.
 
Every now and then the oasis of the derby arrives and for 90 minutes life springs up again and fans are plentiful, but then those fans retract once again, just as quickly as they came, to reveal the ever increasing numbers of lifeless terraces in South African soccer… the stadiums with no souls.  
 
How is it that, as a product, the PSL can sell themselves for millions to TV networks claiming that there is huge interest from people who want to watch the game, yet upon visiting the stadiums on match day, with the rows upon rows of empty seats makes, that claim difficult to reconcile. Even for African Champions League football, the FNB Stadium was embarrassingly empty for Kaizer Chiefs' home game against Township Rollers. 
 
How are England and Germany getting it so right, while we are getting it so wrong? There has been talk that some leagues in Europe exercise a TV blackout in the immediate area around stadiums to encourage stadium attendance. With that in mind, maybe we get lucky and Eskom employ their rolling blackouts on PSL match days, thus cutting the power to television sets and forcing fans back to stadiums in their numbers. 
 
The popular Monday night football show, SoccerZone, re-launched last night and, I swear, there seem to be more people interested in attending that show than there are in attending soccer stadiums. I asked a couple of people on Twitter why it was that soccer stadiums were empty, and the usual replies came back. The tickets cost too much. The public transport to and from the stadiums is not safe or reliable. The quality of the football is not good enough. The style of football has changed and coaches now play not to lose instead of trying to win. The entertainers have disappeared. The characters have gone. Why go to the stadium when games can be watched at home, along with English, Spanish and German football. 
 
But there was one guy whose tweets caught my eye, a tweeter by the name of The Natural Mystic @ndlovu_skhu who was touching on a lot of initiatives that Soccer Laduma is currently promoting. And it suddenly dawned on me that maybe some of you still don't know about them. He tweeted:
 
The Natural Mystic @ndlovu_skhu   
@SoccaClint teams must develop their branches, we also need a professional football supporters association
 
The Natural Mystic @ndlovu_skhu   
@SoccaClint give sponsors a direct access to the fans. Bring sponsors and fans together
 
In the first tweet, the suggestion is made to create a professional supporters association. Well, to a certain extent, Soccer Laduma has done just that by creating the Soccer Laduma Supporters Club. It's been specifically created for supporters of all teams in South Africa to give them the opportunity to come together and have their collective voices amplified as a collective through Soccer Laduma.
 
Now, we have written about the supporters club a couple of times, but clearly there are fans out there who want to be part of the game, who want to be part of a full stadium, but who, on their own, can't do it. We're extending a hand saying, “Take it. Lead us to your problems and let’s see if together we can solve them for the good of soccer in this country.” 
 
The second tweet was even more on point. Why do sponsors invest so much money in soccer? Is it because they like the sport? Maybe, but that's not the reason. Is it because they want to just give money away so that players and club officials can get huge salaries and drive fancy cars? Nope, that's not it. The reason they pay those sponsorships is only because of the supporters!
 
Soccer is their way of speaking to South African football lovers. They identify soccer as a common meeting ground, and the teams and clubs are there to facilitate that relationship. But as more money has flowed into the game, so the clubs and players have moved further away from the fan. It's no wonder stadiums are empty. That relationship no longer exists. The very reason sponsors are pouring money into football is resulting in that gap become wider and wider. The Soccer Laduma Supporters Club is going to give sponsors direct access to fans, without the filter that has become soccer teams. 
 
So if you're fan and you want to have a louder voice, if you want something more from your soccer, then what are you waiting for? Join the Soccer Laduma Supporters Club! You can head to www.soccerladuma.co.za and join online or you can find the nearest branch to you and become part of the on-the-ground movement. 
 
Let's get these stadiums full again!
 
Let's take back our soccer!
 
Shapa Clint

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