Richards Bay FC boss stares down City of uMhlathuze over funding

The gloves are off between the KwaZulu-Natal-based football outfit Richards Bay FC and the city of uMhlathuze, with fears now rife that locals will lose the only team that represents the north coast of the province in the elite Premier Soccer League (PSL).

At the heart of the schism is the alleged breach of agreement where the local municipality under the King Cetshwayo district had legally committed to provide a R3-million financial boost for the club.

The municipality, however, during its executive committee meeting (exco) last month only approved a funding of R1-million towards the football outfit, which is affectionately known as the Natal Rich Boyz.

Now Richards Bay FC chairman Sifiso Biyela has come out guns blazing, saying he would not accept anything less than the agreed funding.

“We have never been officially told about this thing and we have never received any money from the municipality. There has never been any official correspondence from the city, and we have a three-year agreement which, has not expired. According to the agreement, we will get R3-million annually from the city and there is no agreement to amend the service level agreement,” said a fuming Biyela.

He added that since the Richards Bay Complex was banned for hosting any matches by the PSL, the team has been forced to play their home matches in Durban, many kilometers away, which has resulted in hefty accommodation and travel expenses being incurred.

“Even that R3-million amount isn’t sufficient because the team is no longer in the National First Division and through our televised matches, we are marketing and positioning the city. We even struggle to have a proper training facility,” he said.

In 2017, the now defunct Thanda Royal Zulu gained promotion to the PSL, but the excitement of the locals was short-lived when the club owners sold the status to AmaZulu FC.

Biyela, however, restored the hopes by establishing Richards Bay FC. After being in the NFD for two seasons, the team gained promotion to the elite league.

Municipal spokesperson Bongani Gina said the city was not at loggerheads with Biyela. He confirmed that the council had approved R 1-million payment in the form of sponsorship.

“The shortfall is covered by the king Cetshwayo district municipality, who will be giving Richards Bay FC R2-million,” said Gina.

But Biyela hit back, saying the team had separate agreements with the two municipalities.

In June, uMhlathuze mayor Xolani Ngwezi told this paper that the city had injected R200-million to upgrade the uMhlathuze complex into a standard that would be acceptable to the PSL.

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