PSL Wages – The Sublime To The Ridiculous
What Is Happening With SAFPU's Minimum Wage Attempts?
In a league where the top players are earning upwards of R5 million per year, how fair is it that there are colleagues of theirs earning a measly R5000 per month?
The South African Football Players’ Union have highlighted the problem recently and threatened a strike in the Premier Soccer League, which could be more of a ‘when’ than an ‘if’. They’ve stated that the ‘slave wages’ can no longer be tolerated and that they plan to do something about it.
One of SAFPU’s principle aims is to set up a minimum wage in the PSL that would see professional players earning between R16,000 and R18,000 per month, a figure that they deem suitable having spoken to the different footballers who are a part of the Union.
Simply put, R5000 is not enough to pay rent on an apartment, never mind live a good life. We talk about footballers who retire without savings, but how exactly are they going to save when they’re earning so little?
Recently we heard reports of Maritzburg United’s Siphesihle Ndlovu earning less than R7000 per month and the latest is that Kaizer Chiefs’ Bruce Bvuma is taking home R5000. SAFPU have confirmed both amounts, reiterating their stance on a minimum wage.
But these clubs aren’t the only ones reportedly paying these wages. Several outfits across the country are giving professional players R7500 or less. I know some players who ended up fighting with their clubs because they’re still on an academy wage even once they become a first team regular.
Earning a small wage in an academy is normal as a kid, but once the player takes the step up then it’s clear that the club sees something in them and they have to be suitably rewarded for that promotion. Just like anybody else in any normal job.
SAFPU’s Deputy General Secretary, Nhlanhla Shababa, told me recently, “We are going to have a strike… It’s only a matter of time before that happens. The PSL would not exist without the players, and some of them are being treated like slaves.
“We are the voices of the players and we must do our job. We can’t allow a situation where we have some of our players eating from the rubbish bins.”
But why do these players accept these wages? They’re the ones that agree with them and sign the contracts after all. They put their signatures on the paper and agree to a certain amount.
The simple answer is because they have to if they want to be a professional footballer.
Clubs, for the most part, think they will always find somebody else. If you turn down R5000 per month because you think you’re worth more, a club will tell you to go look elsewhere.
Players wanting to get their foot in the door will accept the pittance that is being offered because, long-term, they have a dream of becoming one of those who does pick up a R5m salary in the future.
And they can’t talk about it. Any player who comes out and discusses how he’s being paid poorly will probably never play for his club again. Agents won’t talk about it either because they are wary of being blacklisted if they speak out.
I spoke to one player, currently between clubs, who would only talk on the promise of anonymity. He felt that putting his name to it would jeopardise his chances of getting a new team going forward. Even when given anonymity, he’s part of a minority who will talk about the issue.
He told me, “I’ve been training with them (unnamed club) in the last few months, and I start preseason at the club shortly. I haven't been offered an official contract as yet, but the coach said they would more than likely be offering me around R7500 a month.
“Unfortunately I know that, because I don't have ‘connections’ at this point, I would be very unlikely to receive a better offer anywhere else.
“I need to get my foot in the door, so more than likely I will accept it if that’s what’s offered. I don’t have much of a choice.”
Once SAFPU does make a stand, the PSL, SAFA and the clubs themselves need to work together to decide what is really fair and how meeting the minimum wage requirements can be logistically achieved.
What the teams are doing isn’t wrong, but it should be. It’s a free market and the football clubs are allowed to offer whatever they want and if the players accept it then – ultimately – it’s on them. But when the disparity between players is so vast, it cannot be right.
This isn’t about this club or that club. Teams, in general, shouldn’t be allowed to offer such a low wage and that’s why a proper minimum wage is so vital.
As Shabalala said, ‘the PSL would not exist without the players’ and I think it’s high time that the clubs started recognising that.