By Shaun Gillham
BAY Stars managing director and businessman Tony Lovegrove has slammed a move by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality – in particular Mayor Zonoxolo Wayile – to buy Premier Soccer League (PSL) team Maritzburg United as a slap in the face for local football development.
An angry Lovegrove said on Friday that politicians and officials “did not care about the great talent in their own back yard” and were demonstrating that they did not think locals were “good enough”.
Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron confirmed the initiative, which insiders told Weekend Post will cost the metro R30-million in relocation costs alone.
“I can confirm that the municipality is in the advanced stages of negotiations with Maritzburg United Football Club. This is towards maintaining the sustainability of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium,” Baron said.
According to a source close to the deal, Wayile instructed Nelson Mandela Bay Development Agency Pierre Voges to negotiate with Maritzburg United and that the deal had to be closed before May 18 or 19 due to a Safa deadline dictating the cut-off date by which clubs have to declare their home stadiums.
According to another source, the team might not even be permanently based in the region, but would simply be “rented for some PSL games”.
The new development comes as a massive blow to Bay Stars, which was created out of the former Bay Academy Football Club with extensive financial backing from local business and with the aim of representing the metro in the PSL within three years.
Lovegrove believed a contract signing with Maritzburg was imminent.
He said Bay Stars was formed after Safa contacted local businessmen to assist in the former Bay Academy team. “We looked at the PSL model and we formed a team, which has full technical support, with the aim of getting it into the PSL in three years. We’ve done all the right things; put all the correct structures and support systems in place. We had an MOA [memorandum of agreement] with the mayor, who publicly supported the team and its aims, and we are on track to develop this team, which has great talent,” Lovegrove said.
Lovegrove questioned why tens of millions would potentially be spent on importing a franchise when they had battled to get R4-million worth of repairs done to the team’s home ground, the Wolfson Stadium.
This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the print edition of Weekend Post on Saturday May 12, 2012.