Delays keep Richards Bay fans at bay

Football fans of the KwaZulu-Natal football outfit Richards Bay FC, which will be in their second season campaigning in the elite Premier Soccer League (PSL), will once again miss seeing their team in action in their own backyard.

There was a sense of euphoria and excitement among locals when the club, affectionately known as the Natal Rich Boys, gained automatic promotion to the PSL having won the 2021/22 Motsepe Foundation Championship title.

The promotion of the outfit raised high hopes that ordinary people of Richards Bay and surrounding rural areas will witness riveting PSL football on their own shore, bringing with it a massive economic boost.

But the unprecedented delays in completing the uMhlathuze Sports Complex has put both football fans and Richards Bay FC in a quagmire.

With the PSL season in full swing, the stadium is far from completion. Sifiso Biyela, the club’s chairman, conceded that not playing their home matches in their home soil has been a financial strain for the team.

“Travelling and accommodation for our players and staff comes at a high cost because all our home matches are played in Durban. It’s a situation that we would like to change, but we do not have control over that. Our hope was that the pitch would have been complete before the start of the new PSL season,” lamented Biyela.

He also explained that not to play in front of the home crowd somehow affects their performance. “Richards Bay is the pride and joy of uMhlathuze and there is nothing that will make me happy than to see locals watching us in our territory. This will also boost our team’s performance.”

The city of uMhlathuze injected more than R200-million towards refurbishing the stadium to PSL standards. The municipality also promised the pitch would be ready in the second half of the 2022/23 season, but it all came to naught.

City’s spokesperson Bongani Gina told Sunday World renovations were proceeding well.

“We are now busy with the installation of additional seats to increase capacity. We hope that soon we will be able to get a progress report from the contractor as to when the entire work will be completed,” said Gina.

The stadium last saw PSL football action during the era of the now defunct Thanda Royal Zulu, who sold their PSL status to AmaZulu FC.

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