As expected, the City of Cape Town’s decision to evict Safa Cape Town from Athlone Stadium did not go down well with soccer administrators and other sports organisations as a number of protesters voiced their disaproval with a placard demonstration, along Klipfontein Road, at the weekend.
This comes after the City’s decision to execute an eviction order on Safa Cape Town from Athlone Stadium, which has always been considered the home of football.
Safa received a written notification from the City at the end of November, asking them to vacate the premises by the end of January. The City cited safety, health and rezoning issues as their reasons. The football body, on the other hand, remained defiant, saying the organisation did not break any rules.
And, together with the United Coalition of Sport and Community-based Organisations (UCSCBO) and other stakeholders, they gathered at the stadium, where they also held a press briefing, on Saturday February 1.
Armed with placards, loud hailers and a defiant spirit, football lovers, community leaders, and even children were among the people who lined up on Klipfontein Road en route to Athlone Stadium with posters bearing slogans such as “hands off”, “fix our facilities” and “preserve our heritage”.
Safa Cape Town president Bennett Bailey made it clear that they were going nowhere.
Describing the stadium as a community hub, he said they wanted to create a positive image for the youth, particularly in the surrounding areas.
“We have consulted broadly, intra and inter the sport movement and have decided that the time for talk is over and we will now fight and actively campaign for Athlone Stadium to be handed over to Safa Cape Town in a joint venture agreement where the City and Safa manages it,” he said.
He also noted that the reason they made Athlone Stadium their home base in the first place was because they felt it was in line with the fact that it was always regarded as the home of football in Cape Town.
Cape Town Sports Council chairman, Elton Davids, described the City’s reasons to evacuate Safa as silly.
“We support Safa in their fight to remain at the premises as they have been based here for 10 years, invested money in the property and made its home here.
“This is, after all, a football facility as little else can be played here,” he said.
UCSCBO, an organisation that was established early this year, also released a statement, showing their support for Safa. They were, however, clear that it was not a Safa-only matter.
They noted that sport in general and community-based organisations in particular were experiencing similar problems, which were related to usage, maintenance and security of facilities.
“It has now emerged as a known fact that the City does not operate under a coherent and viable policy to regulate the use of facilities.”
In response, the City of Cape Town released a statement at the weekend, blaming Safa for not playing ball.
Mayoral committee member for economic opportunities and asset management, James Vos, said the stadium received a grading certificate in October, where some issues were picked up.
He said non-operational stadium occupants had to vacate the stadium, as a result.
“While the City is not obligated to find any of the tenants alternative accommodation, the City has attempted to accommodate the tenants, and has offered Safa Cape Town alternative premises at the old Mfuleni clinic but they regrettably declined. As a result, the City has made the said premises available to other Athlone Stadium non-profit users. Subsequently, Safa Cape Town has been offered space at the nearby Vygieskraal Stadium by the City’s Recreation and Park Department.” said Vos.
Safa also declined this offer.