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South African Premier Soccer League Problems & Solutions

There are quite a number of pressing issues in South African football. Poor attendances and lack of organised grassroots football are some of the major concerns.

Below we take a closer look at a real issue that has plagued the local game for some time now. Poor crowd attendances at Premier Soccer League games around the country. Gone are the days when local games were played in front of full houses. Nowadays empty seats have become the norm around stadiums despite the nation boasting some of the best football facilities in Africa.

Week in and week out, I have been following the local league but of particular interest to me has been the number of empty seats at stadiums. A worrying sign, does this have to do with the quality of football? Are the marketing teams doing enough to promote the games? Surely a club like Platinum Stars can do better considering they are the only top flight side in the North West. What is keeping the fans away from games? My first thought was ticket prices? Then I engaged with a number of fans who mentioned different reasons for their non-attendances, the ticket issues dominated.

I approached a gentleman by the name Siwela at my local gym that was wearing a Kaizer Chiefs replica jersey and organized a meeting with him and a few of his friends. I put forward a few questions about the local game. Chief amongst their concerns are the ticketing process. To quote one of them; “I’m not always free on weekends but I love my team, sometimes I only find out on match day that I got some free time and I can actually go and watch but then I haven’t bought any ticket as yet and most Computicket outlets are already closed. Going to a Shoprite will take me much longer because of the queues. I won’t make it in time for the game”

This is just one of the many frustrated fans out there. A number of them were of the same opinion; ticketing facilities are not placed conveniently enough for everyone. To eliminate bias in my findings, I spoke to fans of different age groups, fans who support different teams and fans from different areas. They were quite engaging and they actually asked if this report or findings are going to lead to some form of solution.

Poor attendances have been an issue for the local game for some time now. After the successful hosting of the 2010 world cup, many a soccer loving administrator around the country would have hoped the crowds or new soccer fans would start going to the stadiums in their numbers. This however has not been the case; in fact numbers are going down with each week passing. One of the major causes of that according to the fans I spoke to is the ticketing process. The unavailability of ticket centers in and around the stadiums for convenient purchases is a huge factor in that.

Some of the fans I spoke to are of the view that it is quite a hustle to go out of your way just to get a ticket before heading to the stadium especially when one makes the decision to attend a game a few hours before kick-off.

Still on the ticketing issue, a number of fans also highlight the fact that it is not easy to get your hands on children tickets. One gets to Computicket and more often than not you will not find tickets for minors.

To a lesser extent the food outlets at stadiums do not catering for everyone. Not all fans are “shisa nyama” fanatics. The fans would appreciate if they were allowed to bring their own food into the stadium.

The quality of football on show in the PSL has also gone down. Not a lot is being done to develop future stars that will get the fans on their feet at stadiums. Despite this being the richest league in Africa in terms of revenue, the number of fans at the stadiums continue to dwindle with each week passing. A number of fans are of the opinion that the ticketing process does not have the game and the fans at heart. Most ticketing centres are far away from the stadiums. On weekends Computicket’s close early. Without a proper platform for the supporters to voice their opinions, frustrations take over resulting in them turning a blind eye on the happenings around the local game. Yes, one can’t question the quality of European football screened on our televisions week in and week out but it is safe to say the supporters out there are still willing to take their time and head to the stadiums if only all the systems in place allow them to do so.

It will be better if tickets could be sold at the stadium until at least an hour before kick-off. That will allow fans to come through and get their ticket in time instead of going through all the hustle to watch and support your team. The PSL should seriously consider having more ticketing facilities or at least start selling the tickets at match venues on match days.

Problems

  • Poor attendances
  • Lack of grassroots football
  • Ticketing process

Possible Solutions

Cape Town City Football Club has been a refreshing addition to the league. They are available and well recognised on social media and always engaging with fans from all walks of life. They also introduced season tickets which have resulted in a strong home support. Their home games have turned into family outings on game day. Their rivalry with Ajax Cape Town – though still in its infancy – is one to behold. The pre-match banter is second to none.

Orlando Pirates hosted Mamelodi Sundowns recently and the game is still the talk of town. It was a full house at Orlando stadium and the two teams went toe to toe and delivered a spectacle. That kind of football is what fans cry out for. That kind of football is what fills stadiums and keep the fans interested in local football.

  • Creating more parking spaces and hiring more registered individuals to watch over the fan’s vehicles during their time at the stadium will be another step in the right direction. Worrying about the safety of your vehicle is the last thing you need when you at the stadium.
  • Engaging with stadium management and clubs on a regular basis in setting up more ticketing facilities.
  • Creating a season ticket that can be marketed as a package.
  • Engaging with fans more on a regular basis by holding signing sessions before every home game.
  • Creating a family atmosphere / creating family package tickets to start appealing to a wider audience.
  • Setting up a national tournament where the best players are picked and be given a fair shot at succeeding by going to a recognized football academy. Using rugby’s Coca-Cola Craven week as a blueprint.
  • Setting up an agency for part time workers who will be involved only on match days. These will range from car guards to ticketing officials.
  • Engaging with different supporters from different backgrounds gives one the feeling of what the needs of the fans are. The supporters are the owners of the game and it is safe to say even the players will play better with vocal backing behind them. Football is for the fans by the fans. As the owners of the game, the fans ought to have their voices heard.

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