Want to see the Soweto Derby, then what?

It has long been said that you can’t shoot the messenger if you’re not happy with the message they bring. Rather go for the person who sent the messenger.

But I will do that today. I say shoot the messenger. And that messenger is me, so shoot me. I know many of you would like to do that anyway, but please listen to me before you do.

I say this because I’m going to tell you something that as a football supporter you probably won’t like. I have heard of a planned march of supporters to try to disrupt this afternoon’s Soweto derby at Orlando Stadium and demand that they be allowed back into the stadiums.

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The fans had a similar march in Durban last weekend. It’s noble isn’t it? It’s now been over two years since we’ve had to watch football without the fans, and while it was unbearable at first to watch ‘test matches’, we’ve gotten used to it.

And the players seem to be adapting a bit too. But recently I came across a study on the rise of supporters around the world. The research has been done on the major competitions in all continents and we as South Africa are also included in this.

What they found is that FNB Stadium has nearly 90,000 supporters, but on a typical day when Kaizer Chiefs don’t play Orlando Pirates at that venue, they get about 16,000 if it’s a good day. Sometimes they can only get 6000.

The same happens with Pirates in Orlando, where they don’t even get half the stadium capacity on a normal matchday. When you go to Mamelodi Sundowns you find a similar situation.

Then there are teams that have to celebrate when they let 500 people watch their matches. The lack of supporters in the stadiums here is a problem we had before Covid-19 forced us. This may be why club owners are in no rush to open the venues.

I know the same fans who are complaining will not attend the games when they are open. And I bet even this protest only came about because they wanted to see the derby. And once the derby is over, they will forget about it and go back to their normal lives.

You sometimes even wonder if it’s worth the cost for clubs to open up their venues to supporters, when the gate revenue barely covers the security costs.

Now I am not saying that the stadiums should not be opened, but we also have to look at ourselves and realize that we have not given these clubs much to encourage them to encourage the return of supporters.

I could even say that this situation benefits the clubs – the smaller ones – because they now have their matches on TV more often. And that helps them financially because they need the money that they won’t get with gate pick-up unless they host one of the three big Gauteng teams.

These supporters only pay lip service, they only want to go to the stadiums because it is not allowed. Once they are allowed, the excitement will disappear and we will be watching football again with a hundred supporters in the stands.

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