Bay wants answers before Celtic ‘deal’
Premier soccer league outfit Bloemfontein Celtic must open its books for inspection before the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality will even entertain signing a deal with the club.
The Free State outfit, which has reportedly been struggling financially, has flighted proposals to hold matches in the Bay – or even relocate to the city.
Acting city boss Noxolo Nqwazi, who is also the Bay’s executive director of sports, recreation, arts and culture, said the metro needed answers, particularly around the financial health of the club.
This follows a meeting between Celtic chair Max Tshabalala and some of the city’s political leaders – including deputy mayor Thsonono Buyeye, speaker Buyelwa Mafaya, the EFF’s Zilindile Vena and the Patriotic Alliance’s Marlon Daniels – in late September.
Despite some of his colleagues claiming he was at the meeting, Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani was adamant on Wednesday that he had never attended any such gathering where Tshabalala had spoken of his wish to possibly move his club to the Bay.
Nqwazi, who along with director of sports Charmaine Williams was also at the meeting, said Tshabalala’s presentation was a “helicopter view” of his hopes to have Celtic play in the city.
“He could not answer a number of things that I would have wanted him to answer.
“He was not even sure if he wants to relocate or not.
“My first question to him was ‘do you want to relocate Celtic or do you want to play games at the stadium?’
“He was not sure.
“If you’re not sure if you want to relocate or play games, then you can’t come up with a figure [of what you want from the municipality].
“Because then your figures are not based on anything tangible,” she said.
“My other issue was that Celtic is a Bloemfontein club and it’s well supported – so why would you want to play games here when you have got a well-supported club?
“And how are you supported by the provincial government?
“To move or play elsewhere, there would have to be discussion between the provincial government or probably the local sphere.
“And the fact that they have a 2010 stadium like us, why would they want to release Bloem Celtic to play elsewhere?”
Nqwazi said she had made it clear at the meeting that the municipality would have to ensure there was due diligence and that all the information the city required was made available to it.
“When you want to play one game, you don’t have to come to the city, you just go directly to the stadium [management],” she said.
“But when you want to have an agreement with the city, that’s a different ball game.
“I heard later they had a meeting with the stadium operators [the Mandela Bay Development Agency].
“While we were busy with that, we heard in the news that Bloem Celtic was [allegedly] liquidated.
“We don’t do business with a company that has been liquidated or is being liquidated.
“We have sent questions to Max Tshabalala, which have not been answered.
“The issue of the liquidation is a serious issue to us, so until he responds to those questions, we are not doing anything.
“We want access to their financial statements. We are asking a lot of questions around the liquidation issue.
“But the MFMA [Municipal Finance Management Act] does not allow us to do business with them.”
Tshabalala denied receiving any correspondence from the municipality, saying the last he had heard from it was at the September meeting.
“Nothing was sent on to us. I’m shocked that they are saying they asked questions,” he said on Wednesday.
Asked if the club had been liquidated, as suggested by some media reports, he said:
“Stupid people will always say stupid things. How, if a company is liquidated, are they still playing games?
“How can a government institution take media reports?
“They must say which newspaper is that because we don’t know nothing about it.”
He claimed that all the politicians and officials at the meeting had accepted his presentation unconditionally and his understanding was that they merely had to iron out the legalities.
“We were very excited about it, but when the mayor, Bobani, started saying he doesn’t know about the meeting we had, we were confused.
“I think the mayor has amnesia if he can forget such a big thing in front of everyone.”
He said they had subsequently had a meeting with the stadium operators, the Mandela Bay Development Agency.
He would not say if they wanted to relocate to the Bay or to move some of their home games.
The agency’s spokesperson, Luvuyo Bangazi, said: “The MBDA is not entertaining any agreement or proposals from Bloem Celtic.
“Any news to the contrary is the figment of someone’s imagination.”
Daniels, who initiated Tshabalala’s meeting with the city, said he had encouraged him to make a presentation to the city when they met up during a visit to the Free State.
They had started talking football and the topic came up of how the Bay did not have “the glory of a PSL team” anchored in Port Elizabeth.
This, as Chippa United – which is a Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium anchor tenant – has split some of its games between Port Elizabeth and Buffalo City.
“I said Nelson Mandela Bay is deprived of quality football because Chippa can’t even fill up a stadium,” Daniels said.
“They have one foot here and one in Buffalo City.”
He said he was impressed by all that Tshabalala said he would offer, such as coaching clinics, curtain-raisers and general football development.
Daniels said it was sad that Bobani was denying being at an “innocent meeting”.
“I don’t know why he’s denying it because there’s nothing sinister. There was no decision as to whether or not we will take them.
“The conclusion was that Max must go back and bring a presentation with the amounts that he wants.”