JOHANNESBURG - The South African Premier League has just kicked off and although it is business as usual, the most critical question commentators are grappling with are dwindling crowds at matches.
Never in the history of the game has stadiums been so empty and here is Mzansi sporting federations are intending to have an emergency indaba to find out the cause of the alarming drop in the number of spectators passing through the turnstiles weekly to watch live games.
And to compound the situation, even traditional encounters involving previously special codes like rugby and cricket are also seriously affected, leading bosses to seek for urgent solutions.
But it is soccer which has been hit hard and no one seems to have an answer on why people have all of a sudden lost interest in supporting the game which has brought so much happiness among different societies.
Traditionally, matches involving either Kaizer Chiefs or Orlando Pirates, regardless of the opposition, have normally witnessed huge attendances. But this week’s figures point to a different situation altogether.
On Tuesday evening this week, less than 100, yes 100 spectators, paid to watch the Soweto Glamour Boys beat Bloemfontein Celtic 1-0 at Mzansi’s traditional home of soccer FNB Stadium in a league game.
A day later on Wednesday, another meagre crowd got into Orlando Stadium to witness Durban side Amazulu hold Orlando Pirates to a 1-1 draw evoking uneasiness among soccer bosses and journalists alike whether this is going to be a record-breaking season when it comes to poor spectators’ attendances.
Since those two matches’ shocking attendances, debates have raged on why more and more people are staying away from the stadiums with arguments ranging from one factor to the other.
Still the most outstanding reason being put forward is that clubs have sat back and stopped marketing the games leaving the job of doing this to traditional media organisations.
However, others argue that the global economic downturn has caused the sharp decline with spectators paying attention to other more pressing matters with their hard-earned money than on sporting issues.
Too much television, especially of foreign and more attractive European games has also come in for heavy criticism as a contributing factor on why people do not see the need to go and watch local matches; instead preferring to stay within the comforts of their homes and watch blockbuster games on television.
The advent of the social media has also not escaped the wrath of those seeking solutions. With live streaming of each game on the palms of most soccer fans through extensive social media networks such as Twitter, Facebook and other forms; people feel there is little appetite to waste time and go and watch live games anymore.
Access to stadia is also seen as another factor especially when games are played at night which has led to people preferring to stay indoors.
Then there has been another argument that the dearth of good and big-name players has resulted in little motivation for anyone to leave their respective homes for live soccer games.
People used to go and watch individuals like Jomo Sono, Kaizer Motaung and back home George Shaya, Moses Chunga, Ernest Kamba, Peter Ndlovu, Mercedes Sibanda, Shacky Tauro, Joel Shambo just to name a few. These players are no more and whenever they do surface, are quickly snapped up by outside and richer clubs, leaving local teams in a desperate situation to attract attention.
All the same, a solution must be found and found urgently to take people back to the stadia.