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OPINION: Financial Fair Play Could Be A Double-Edged Sword For The PSL

With Mamelodi Sundowns well on its way to wrapping up another DStv Premiership league title, rumblings about their financial muscle have begun from former players and coaches.

PSL Title contenders, Mamelodi Sundowns
Mamelodi Sundowns recorded their 14th win of the season in 17 games on Monday defeating SuperSport United by 1-0. Picture: Backpagepix

With Mamelodi Sundowns well on their way to wrapping up another DStv Premiership league title, rumblings about their financial muscle have begun from former players and coaches.

Two women looking excitedly at cellphone

On Monday, Sundowns opened a 14-point gap between them and second-positioned Richards Bay FC after defeating SuperSport United by a single goal.

After the game, SuperSport’s head coach, Gavin Hunt, explained how hard it has been to compete with Sundowns due to the money they spend in the transfer market.

“When I started years ago, the teams were much closer until Sundowns bought all our players [from SuperSport] back in my time, and then we were decimated.

“And this happened again. They’ve got our top players here.

“It happens — as a club, that’s how we survive [by selling players]. So you’ve got to be realistic and stick with what you’ve got and where you want to finish.

“There’s a big fight for second and third. Now you’ve got to consider budgets — who are spending more than you?

“We haven’t spent R1 this year. I haven’t bought one player. So I think we’re punching OK.

On social media, many fans have started claiming Sundowns should only be judged on their continental success, not in the domestic league they have five times consecutively. They are well on their way to claiming a sixth title in a row, with experienced German coach Ernst Midderndorp this month claiming they will win the league at least 20 points ahead of their nearest rival.

Recent results have also raised the question of financial fair play in the PSL or some form of regulation in the transfer market ‘to level the playing field.’

Former Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper, Brian Baloyi raised this issue last year in November in a conversation with TimesLive.
“My honest opinion is, there will never be anyone competing with Sundowns for as long as things are the way they are. Sundowns will keep on winning the league until something like what happened in England happens here.

“What is happening here is what Chelsea used to do back in the day, and then other clubs started wanting to do it, but UEFA came with financial fair play. But if we don’t have financial fair play, no one will win the league [except Sundowns]. They can try whatever Sundowns do, the simple things.

“For me, this is the real issue, and I have nothing against Sundowns and their owners, but if we want to have a competitive league, then we will think about doing something this way. All other people with money can come, [Shauwn] Mkhize and [Sandile] Zungu, but they can never compete with Sundowns at that level.”

While Baloyi makes valid points, Financial Fair Play rules in the PSL could benefit some teams and harm others. Remember, if they are to buy into UEFA’s model, it would mean clubs are ‘prevented from spending more than they earn in the pursuit of success.’

How many teams profit in the PSL from club-related activities such as merchandise sales, ticket sales, and sponsorships? Only a few.

If those clubs are regulated further on what money they are allowed to spend in the transfer market, it could be detrimental to their transfer budget. For example, a team like Stellenbosch Football Club, which is relatively new, depends on its owner’s finances to buy new players and develop the team.

It’s also debatable whether Mamelodi Sundowns’ spending power is good or bad for the league. Is attracting players such as Abubeker Nassir, Marcelo Allende, and Gaston Sirino bad? Should the onus not be on Sundowns’s competitors to find an investment that will allow them to compete in the transfer market?

Recently, Liverpool and Manchester United owners announced they are open to new investors or a complete buyout. This is due to reaching a profit ‘ceiling’ – the owners probably feel they can no longer compete with other big European clubs and still maintain their profit margin or projections. So the best option is to sell.

Would a team like Kaizer Chiefs, for example, be open to selling 40% of its ownership to a private investor so it can compete with Sundowns in the transfer market? I’m not sure.

With that said, teams looking to compete for the league could benefit from some form of regulation in the transfer market in the future.

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