Cape Town – The disappointment of Chippa United’s possible relocation to Port Elizabeth has to be weighed against the realities facing football clubs in Cape Town.
The Philippi-based club won the National First Division (NFD) and have been promoted to the elite Premier Soccer League (PSL).
On Sunday, however, Chippa’s owner Siviwe Mpengesi confirmed he is in negotiation with the Eastern Cape government and the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality with a view to permanently moving his club. He said the offer he had received made financial sense and it would enable his club to be more “commercially viable”.
The Eastern Cape has long been starved of top-flight football. In previous years, they had Bush Bucks and Bay United, both of whom have since disappeared from the scene.
The area is hoping that Chippa can provide them with a PSL club and rumours suggest they are prepared to invest quite heavily if the Cape club does relocate.
Cape Town, at the moment, only has one PSL club – Ajax Cape Town. Over the last few years, Vasco da Gama, Santos and Chippa have been relegated, and the city has been desperate to get a second team into the top-flight.
Chippa have achieved that goal – but are now thinking of leaving.
“Obviously, we would be very disappointed if Chippa move to PE,” said Safa-CT president Norman Arendse. “I must say I was surprised by the club’s announcement. We had even been talking to Chippa with regard to the establishment of a Safa-CT academy. We have been battling to get another team in the PSL… now we’ve got it and I hear he wants to move.
“But before I make any further official comment, I think’s it’s important that I speak to Siviwe (Mpengesi) first.”
While the disappointment at Cape Town losing another PSL club is quite tangible, NFD club owners say they understand Mpengesi’s thinking.
“We are proud of Chippa having achieved promotion to the PSL,” said Santos chairman Goolam Allie. “We are disappointed that he is thinking of moving the club. We have always believed that Cape Town needs another team in the PSL.
“But, in defence of Chippa, it’s important to note that the people of Cape Town also have to share some of the blame if Chippa do decide to relocate.
“The support from the Cape, both for NFD and PSL clubs, leaves a lot to be desired. To add to that, it’s also time the Cape metropole and corporate Cape Town come to the party.
“While at Santos, we will continue to do what we do for the people of the Cape. It is important to understand that there is nothing in this city that encourages club owners to stay here.”
FC Cape Town boss Errol Dicks, as much as he too is disappointed, agreed with Allie’s sentiments.
“It will be sad, we have always wanted another team in the PSL,” said Dicks. “But owning a football team in the Cape is a double-edged sword. You want to stay here, but you cannot get support. You want to play here, but you cannot make your team a commercial success because of a lack of support from corporate Cape Town.
“When we (FC Cape Town) played Third Division FC Buffalo in the Eastern Cape in a Cup match earlier this season, I was amazed by the size of the crowd. The atmosphere was fantastic; it’s clear that it’s a region deprived of top-level football, and they want to change that.
“And that is why I fully understand and respect what Chippa are thinking of doing. It’s a commercial decision.
“The bottom line the Mother City needs to understand is that football clubs need support. Whatever Chippa decides, stay or go, it will happen again. You cannot stop it.”