The proposed allocation of R20 million for the upgrade of the Absa Stadium in East London is set to stir up a hornet’s nest of discontent.

A storm seems to be brewing on the Border over the allocation of funds for the refurbishment of stadiums in line with the 2010 World Cup Legacy Project.

While the continued delay in the signing of documents required to facilitate the transfer of R50m from the Department of Sport, Recreation Arts and Culture to the Buffalo City Municipality has been well documented, rumblings of discontent from the Buffalo City LFA (BCLFA) will no doubt add to the drama.

The Daily Dispatch has reliably learned the Absa Stadium, home of the Border Bulldogs Rugby franchise, will receive R20m towards renovations and this has not gone well with the BCLFA, the body that runs soccer in Buffalo City.

BCLFA president Xolani Bishoti was quick to express his dissatisfaction with the allocation process.

“Forty percent of the money is going to Absa Stadium. And although it is owned by the municipality we all know that it is a rugby stadium.

“Football people are asking: Why are we allowing this?

“When the Rugby World Cup took place, soccer did not benefit and the same with the cricket so why must other sport codes benefit from soccer.”

Khaya Jara, the BCLFA’s representative on the 2010 steering committee, felt that soccer as a sport was not getting its due reward.

“We were disturbed to read in the Dispatch last week that nothing had been signed, and the delay over the R50m is a typical example of one of those instances when football people are not taken seriously.

“And besides the money that has been allocated, the biggest problem is that Buffalo City needs a world-class soccer stadium,” said Jara.

“We are not sure if it will take 40 years for the people responsible to realise this and until such time that this happens, we won’t be happy.”

Jara said when it was realised that all the stadiums within the BCM were not included in the list of beneficiaries – stadiums like Bunkers Hill and Mdantsane Grounds (Units 6, 10 and 15) among others – the association made an appeal to the BCM for additional funds from the Mayors Discretionary Fund but this was turned down.

Director in the mayor’s office Vuyo Zambodla expressed surprise at the LFA’s outburst.

“We consulted with the Buffalo City LFA in the buildup to decision-making of venues and they were represented in the final meeting where decisions were taken including the amounts of money allocated to Absa Stadium.

“This is indeed the first we hear of a complaint about the amount allocated to Absa from the Buffalo City LFA.

“One would hope that in future such concerns can be raised at the appropriate forums,” said Zambodla.

Zambodla said Fifa requirements for a Venue Specific Training Site are very exact and this was taken into consideration when the decision was made to allocate such a large sum to Absa.

“ Furthermore”, said Zambodla, “At this stage, this is the only venue that has the potential to meet the Premier Soccer League and international requirements in the short-term.

“With the limited capital budgets we have for upgrading it remains the only option we have to put the city on the PSL and Safa (SA Football Association) map, as we attempt to profile the city as a football destination of choice in the lobbying process to be a 2010 team base camp and training venue.”

Zambodla also said that it was “misleading to define Absa Stadium as a purely rugby venue”, but, the reality was that the Border Rugby Football Union has invested, a lot of money in the development and maintenance of the stadium and on that basis, will have the upper hand in the utilisation of the stadium until any other relevant sporting code comes forward with a proposal.

But, said Zambodla: “BCM has facilitated arrangements to see that Safa is increasingly represented both in decisions on soccer at the stadium and accommodation at the premises.”

PUBLICATION: Daily Dispatch Online
AUTHOR: DOMINIC PEEL
DATED: 13th November 2008