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"First Prize, Finish The PSL Season Before 30 June…”

South African football, and football all over the world has been thrown into uncertainty with the Coronavirus shutdown, but what happens if the Premier Soccer League can’t finish in time?

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There are several complexities for the PSL and the South African Football Association to deal with at present in the midst of the biggest global crisis to hit the football industry, and the recent announcement of a complete nationwide lockdown has only complicated things further.

While necessary in order to contain the virus and helpfully start Mzansi on its road to recovery, the lockdown means that football will have to wait until mid-April before it can even consider getting underway again, with the Absa Premiership and National First Division both playing a waiting game to see what happens.

The complication that we’ll be looking at today is the matter of player and staff contracts finishing before the season has chance to finish, with deals set to expire at the end of June – giving just a month and a half after the lockdown ends to get the season wrapped up.

FIFA’s laws state that contracts must end at the end of every season, but that law will have to be relaxed around the world if leagues – including the PSL – are to extend into July. The law states that ‘the minimum length of a contract shall be from its effective date until the end of the season’. Member clubs can only conclude contracts that end on 30 June of each year.

The Siya crew spoke to football attorney, John Wilson, who gave his thoughts on the matter, saying that the first prize should be, of course, to get the season finished before the contract issues become an issue – as long as it is safe to do so.

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Speaking to the crew, Wilson said, “Look, the situation regarding player and staff contracts at clubs is an interesting one… With several set to expire at the end of June, the first prize is obviously to cram games in and get them done before that date. That being said, that situation can only arise if it’s safe for everybody to continue, because of course the health of everyone is paramount.

“But if it isn’t possible to get those games done in time, then a decision will have to be made from FIFA regarding their end of season law with regards to contracts, and there will need to be a bilateral decision made by the clubs and the league in terms of the way forward taking into consideration the respective employment laws of each country.

“If they opt to have rolling contracts until the season is over, I feel that it would have to be the same for all players in a squad – whether they are regulars or squad players. It would have to be a situation where the entire squad entered into rolling contracts where the terms of their deals stay as they are until the season actually comes to an end, so the Clubs would have to extend all player contracts on the same terms and conditions as at 30 June.

“There’s the added complication, though, of players who might have already agreed precontracts elsewhere, and for them they will, in all likelihood, have to continue at their current clubs and join their new employers ahead of the 2020/21 season, whenever that might be.

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“Ultimately, clubs, players and agents around the country are waiting to see what happens in terms of government regulations and the way forward when the lockdown ends, and waiting for the leadership of the PSL and SAFA to make a decision for the way forward in line with Government’s decision. There’s nothing else to be done at this point.”

The nationwide lockdown will begin tomorrow night and end on April 16.

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