South African soccer remains in limbo as Ajax Cape Town appeal held over

Tashreeq Morris of Ajax Cape Town sits dejected after the club was relegated Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

South African football fans will be held in suspense for a while longer after Ajax Cape Town's bid to prevent the start of the new Premier Soccer League (PSL) season was held over to Thursday.

This ruling was made in the South Gauteng High Court on Tuesday as Ajax seek to have the start of the league campaign postponed while their status as either a top-flight or second-tier team is clarified.

The matter will now be heard at 11h30 in the same court, which will be after the PSL's bid for leave to appeal the ruling of Judge Denise Fisher that has left Ajax's status in limbo.

The PSL will get their opportunity to petition Fisher at 09h00 on Thursday, where they will try to persuade her that the decision to set aside an arbitration ruling of Advocate William Mokhari in the matter involving Tendai Ndoro on the basis that he was the wrong authority to hear the case was made in error.

The PSL will argue that she erred in her ruling and that another judge would find differently.

If the PSL are successful then Ajax will be given the opportunity to prevent the start of the league while those proceedings commence, but if the league are not given leave to appeal, then there may be no need to hear Ajax's case.

That is because it would mean it is almost impossible for the league to start while Ajax's status has not been confirmed.

Fisher ruled that FIFA's Player Status Committee is the only authority mandated to hear the case, though FIFA have themselves already stated that they believe the South African Football Association and PSL have the necessary disciplinary mechanisms to rule on the Ndoro matter.

Ajax stand accused of fielding Ndoro despite being his third club of the 2017/18 season, which is in contravention of FIFA regulations.

The league released the fixtures for the opening round of league matches on Monday, with a massive clash to kick-off the campaign between Mamelodi Sundowns and Kaizer Chiefs.

But it is growing ever more unlikely that the match will not be played as scheduled, with time running short to sort out logistics and put tickets on sale.

The league is determined to push on with the start of the campaign even while the Ajax issue simmers in the background as they come under pressure from sponsors and broadcasters to get the show on the road.

The worst-case scenario for them would be for the league to have to accommodate Ajax at a later stage, which would see them playing catch-up matches.

But Ajax would like to keep the pressure on the PSL by having the start of the season postponed, which would perhaps force them to make a compromise to appease stakeholders that could see Ajax included as a top-flight team next season.

It is a situation that has been rumbling on since early January, but is now reaching absolute crisis point for the PSL, whose image has taken a battering as they seemingly cannot put what should be a straight-forward administrative issue to bed.

Ajax have admitted their guilt in the matter, but say the punishment of Mokhari was unprecedented and too harsh.

The advocate both stripped Ajax of points in matches against Platinum Stars, SuperSport United and Polokwane City, and handed the results to their opponents with 3-0 scorelines.

This not only pushed Ajax from 15th in the table, the relegation play-off position, to 16th and automatic relegation, but also lifted SuperSport into the top eight and saw them qualify for the lucrative MTN8 at the expense of AmaZulu.

That has left the Durban club incensed and a firm ally of Ajax, but also made planning for the MTN8, which is due to start on the weekend of August 10-12, on hold.

Ajax want the matter to be sent to FIFA's PSC, where they expect to be found guilty, but feel they will not be handed such a harsh penalty and their 15th position in the league last season will be confirmed. That will leave the league in a quandary, either needing to replay the Promotion/Relegation Play-Offs (which could see a legal challenge from Leopards) or to find a compromise that would see Ajax accommodated in the top-flight.

The league are hoping to have Advocate Mokhari's decision restored, which would narrow Ajax's options and likely leave the Court of Arbitration for Sport as their only remaining option.